Department consolidates its old financial systems

The Education Department’s upgrade and consolidation of three legacy
accounting and financial systems, a project that strained the department’s budget
over the past few years, is finished several months ahead of schedule, Education officials
said.


The Education Central Automated Processing System (EDCAPS) is composed of three
financial packages and is under the supervision of the department’s chief financial
officer. The system reduces redundancy and lowers the department’s staff needs,
Education officials said.


The legacy mainframe systems are from the old Health, Education and Welfare Department
days. They include the Primary Accounting System used for financial processing, the
Education Management Payment System used for distributing awards and grants, and the
Grants and Contracts Management System used for processing contract documents. The systems
had limited functions.


“We had no query capability in the old system,” EDCAPS director Paul
Gilbreath said. “If you wanted data out of that system in a different format than was
already established in the support contract, you actually had to modify the contract and
execute a task order.”


In effect, he said, the department didn’t own its own data.


“If we didn’t specify clearly how we wanted it,” Gilbreath said,
“we didn’t get it.”


The three EDCAPS components are the Grants Administration and Payment System (GAPS),
which runs custom software; Contracts and Purchasing Support Software, a customized
version of the Standard Automated Contracting System from CACI Inc. of Fairfax, Va.; and
Financial Management System Software, a modified version of the Information Engineered
Financial Accounting and Reporting System from Computer Data Systems Inc. of Rockville,
Md.


The EDCAPS server is a 440-MHz Digital Equipment Corp. Alpha 8400 with a 8G hard drive
and 128M of RAM, running Microsoft Windows NT.


It runs on a Fast Ethernet LAN connecting 486 and Pentium PCs. Data resides in an
Oracle Corp. relational database management system.


Each of the dozen or so primary offices within the department use EDCAPS to prepare
financial reports, issue purchase orders, prepare contracts, buy materials and handle
travel arrangements, Gilbreath said.


The general ledger portion of EDCAPS prepares Education financial statements and
budgets and exerts funds control, which prevents unauthorized employees from spending
money, Gilbreath said.


The system has made procurement cycles easier, Gilbreath said. Previously, he said, an
employee who had to issue a check simply wrote it out by hand.


Another employee entered the check information into the accounting system, and a third
entered the procurement information associated with it.


“That left many possibilities for making mistakes,” Gilbreath said.
“This system is totally integrated, so if an office wants to pay for a purchase
directly, that user captures all of the information in one spot.”


Michael Holloway, a management analyst in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and
Chief Information Officer, said he often uses the contracts component to process funds for
contracts.


Holloway, who has used the system since October, said he can attach the electronic
versions of statements of work and other documents to the office’s procurement
records—something that was done manually with the old system.


“We use it to generate all of the small purchases within the office,”
Holloway said. “Once we got used to the new format, it gave us a lot more control
over what we are doing.”


EDCAPS helps Education employees in other ways, too. For example, GAPS, the
custom-developed component of the system, eases the way the department does business,
Gilbreath said.


Customers previously made payment requests by using floppy disk file transfer. The
department loaded the requests in batch form and processed them, he said.


“Customers couldn’t see what we had on them,” Gilbreath said. “But
GAPS is Web-accessible, so our grants and awards payment customers can see what their
awards balances are, adjust between awards and make their own payment requests.”


EDCAPS still needs some fine-tuning, Gilbreath said. In addition to adjusting some of
the reporting features, Gilbreath said he wants to modify the financial system to more
easily accept the kind of contract modifications that are common with indefinite-delivery,
indefinite-quantity contracts.


“The financial system as it stands doesn’t like a lot of modifications. It
likes specific line items and prices you don’t change a lot,” he said. “But
we have plans to help streamline that.”  

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