Treasury installs tool to show both sides of the financial coin

Thanks to its complex financial reporting systems, the federal government reported a
$70 billion budget surplus in fiscal 1998, the same year it recorded a $60 billion
spending deficit.


Believe it or not, both financial statements were accurate, said Steven App, deputy
chief financial officer at the Treasury Department. Federal budgeting is based on cash,
whereas the government’s financial systems use accrual accounting.


“What the government is trying to do now is show both sides of the story,”
App said, citing recent financial management reforms.


Two years ago, Treasury invested in a financial analysis and reporting tool to
reconcile its budgetary and accounting systems and meet the new accountability
requirements of the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act.


Treasury’s client-server CFO Vision analysis and reporting tool from SAS Institute
Inc. of Cary, N.C., runs under Microsoft Windows 95 on PCs and under Windows NT Server 4.0
on a quad-processor Compaq ProLiant 5500R server with 1G of RAM.


App, who helped select the tool, said, “We didn’t have to tell it what a
balance sheet was, and it had virtually limitless dimensions.”


The multidimensional online analytical processing tool extracts financial data from the
departmentwide Treasury Information Executive Repository (TIER) and populates Win95
financial templates.


App said the multidimensional models Treasury built with CFO Vision have proved able of
handling the complexity of government accounting. “Each different dimension gives us
something we need for our financial statements,” which beginning this fiscal year had
to include elimination entries, he said.


Treasury’s TIER data warehouse, which receives monthly financial data from 17
reporting entities and 43 accounting systems, is an Oracle7 database running under OpenVMS
7.3.3 on a Compaq AlphaServer 8400.


App said the data warehouse stocks more than 300 standard general ledger accounts, 530
Treasury fund symbols and budget object-class codes. Its complexity is staggering in view
of Treasury’s $12 billion annual budget. “We have a lot of numbers in
there,” including historical information for the past fiscal year, he said.


Data quality standards and data definitionshave been difficult to set and maintain at
Treasury because of the number and complexity of its financial systems, App said.


Treasury recently began requiring bureau CFOs to certify the quality of the data they
submit to TIER. The department will also start a data stewardship program later this year,
said David Epstein, director of financial systems integration.


In the process of developing separate budgetary and accounting models in CFO Vision,
App said, budget and accounting staffs sat down together for perhaps the first time.


“We’ve all worked together for years, but the budget people and accounting
people had never debated how each side affects the other,” he said.


The deputy CFO said the experience was an eye-opener that left both sides “with
greater appreciation for what the other has to deal with.”


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