OMB looks to orchestrate financial management

'If you don't have a common song sheet or score, you're going to have chaos.'

' Sam Mok, Labor CFO

Rick Steele

Agencies to get performance measures, guidance on how to pick providers when they're moving to shared-services providers

After a year of tuning up, the Office of Management and Budget is trying to find harmony in agencies' efforts toward adopting the Financial Man- agement Line of Business.

'This is one of the most important initiatives in recent years, trying to bring some efficiency and standardization to all the different financial practices in the federal government,' said Sam Mok, chief financial officer of the Labor Department, one of the agency managing partners leading the initiative.

OMB plans by March 31 to create performance measures and develop guidance for agencies moving to shared-services providers under the financial-management initiative. This month, OMB intends to release a framework to assist agencies in conducting competitions and selecting a shared provider, OMB comptroller Linda Combs said in a recent memo to CFOs obtained by GCN.

The performance measures and guidance are the first steps toward transparency, standardization and integration, which should make financial data more timely, accurate, and easily compared and aggregated across agencies, Combs said.

'If you think about all these different agencies practicing financial management as an orchestra, if you don't have a common song sheet or score, you're going to have chaos,' Mok said.

A few agencies are preparing to move to shared services. OMB has set a goal of at least three major agencies moving their financial-management services to a shared-services provider this year.

The guidance should accelerate the migration by giving agencies a score sheet to adhere to, Mok said.

OMB last year named the General Services Administration, Interior Department's National Business Center, the Transportation Department and the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Public Debt as FM LOB Centers of Excellence.

'The federal financial community must have clarity on how to evaluate the performance and cost of shared-services alternatives, as well as clarity on what steps federal agencies are expected to undertake in order to migrate to a COE [center of excellence],' Combs said.

For example, OMB will identify corresponding benchmarks for similar services that private and public providers offer. The guidance also will assist agencies in managing their migration to a center of excellence. It will describe the range of services to be provided, project plans and service-level-agreement templates, and migration risk areas.

Next, OMB plans by Sept. 30 to develop standardized business processes for core financial-management functions and a governmentwide accounting code.

'Once established, all agencies will be expected to adopt these common processes on a schedule agreed upon between the agency and OMB,' Combs said.

Better sharing

A common process and structure will let agencies exchange financial and accounting information with each other and with OMB.

For example, the departments of Education, Energy, Labor and Transportation use financial management systems from Oracle Corp., but cannot communicate with each other because their architectures are different, Mok said.

'A common architecture makes it a lot easier to implement better internal controls because it will encourage a vendor to come up with standard internal control checkpoints,' he said.

The Financial Systems Integration Office this month will move from GSA's CFO office to its Office of Governmentwide Policy's Office of Technology Strategy, reflecting the initiative's emphasis on government- wide IT and administrative and contract management.

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