Horn renews call to take M out of OMB

"I favor a separate Office of Management. I didn't use to believe it, but no OMB
director has the time to give to management," Horn said. "We need to separate
out the functions. We need people to provide management expertise."

 OMB officials, however, argued that without budget clout, any agency's effort to
reform management becomes weak.

 "If you separate the two functions out, then what teeth does the M side
have?" said Edward DeSeve, controller for OMB's Office of Federal Financial
Management. "It would just be a super policy agency with no carrots or sticks. We
need the M and the B working together."

 Speaking this month at the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program's
conference in Arlington, Va., Horn, DeSeve and several other top federal management
officials discussed the administration's financial systems upgrade strategy.

 Horn, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on
Government, Management, Information and Technology, endorsed the White House plan for
building systems that provide managers with real-time financial data.

 But a recent General Accounting Office report on high-risk systems showed that
agencies have yet to replace their many proprietary, duplicate systems with fewer
integrated systems supported by commercial products.

 Horn also said annual reports from the agencies' chief financial officers showed
that the government still runs 820 agency financial systems and 1,181 financial management

 "Agencies are still tinkering with legacy systems instead of acquiring
state-of-the-art," Horn said. "The reports show that agencies are in a financial
mess. Computer problems compound agency difficulties where there are financial management
problems. Instead of improving systems, agencies are making excuses."

 Horn also said Congress would use agency reports mandated by the
Government Performance and Results Act to track financial systems progress and push for
tougher internal systems controls.

 DeSeve acknowledged that improvements in federal financial systems have been slow.
But he pointed to the CFO Council's program for revamping the Multiple-Award Schedule for
financial software as one way to accelerate upgrades.

 The council's Joint Systems Solutions Team (JSST) is working on ways to streamline
the certification tests that vendors must undergo to earn a financial management software
contract and speed ordering procedures.

 DeSeve also said the ultimate goal should be providing managers with the latest,
most reliable financial data, not to simply build systems to satisfy governmentwide

 "The real key is not to have systems at all but reliable information,"
DeSeve said. "We have to take the zombie systems off life support."

 To acquire system building blocks, Gene L. Dodaro, assistant comptroller general for
GAO's Accounting and Information Management Division, said agency financial managers must
work more closely with their information technology counterparts. 

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