Charge-tracking improves GSA card control

A new component of the General Services Administration's financial management system tracks how employees use government purchase cards.

The software is one of several modules of the Momentum Financial Management System the agency hired American Management System Inc. of Fairfax, Va., to install. It monitors how more than 7,500 credit card shoppers reconcile charges and track funds in real time.

The Federal Procurement Data Center reported that agencies charged more than $12 billion on purchase cards in fiscal 2000, with GSA disbursing more than $157 million.

The application shows GSA where departments spend funds and settles charges quickly, a major benefit for agencies, said Bill Early, who recently retired as GSA's chief financial officer.

'The finance department can do automatic payment, and we earn prompt-payment discounts,' he said.

An automated workflow function lets users report transactions immediately and reconciles the charges when the bank sends GSA the bill, Early said.

GSA had used a similar system, but it did not offer the logging feature, which Early said is an important advantage.

Banks usually send credit card data to GSA by File Transfer Protocol, and the agency loads the data onto a server running the Momentum software with an Oracle database. Through a secure intranet, users can view their charges and approve or dispute them. Managers also can view charges.

Users can distribute funds to the correct department by entering data into the log. Early said this function is especially important in real estate transactions.

'When someone buys 10 gallons of paint that will be used for different projects in different departments, the log allows us to distribute the funds,' he said.

'Logging enables managers to better manage their financials and control their funds' by showing them where their budgets stand in real time, said Zipora Brown, AMS vice president of federal solutions.

The software is written in Java and runs through a Web browser. Users can log on from any Web access point as long as they have the financial system software on their computers.

'The workflow moves the information around and cuts out all the inefficiencies we had with a paper system,' Early said. 'This is the kind of feature we wanted for our new accounting system.'

Early said AMS is continuing work on backroom operations. He said GSA plans to discontinue its old system by fall.

'We are mapping data from the old system to the new system,' Early said. 'Both systems are paying bills and calculating data, but the new system is feeding the old system because that is the one of record.'

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