Four financial apps make it onto JFMIP's approved list

Four financial apps make it onto JFMIP's approved list

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

Agencies now have four products they can use for financial management.

Nine vendors vied for a spot on the government's new approved financial software list, which is the result of product tests by the interagency Joint Financial Management Improvement Program. The list replaces the previously mandatory Financial Management System Software Schedule.

The approved products are:

' Momentum from American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va.

' IFMIS from Digital Systems Group Inc. of Westminster, Pa.

' Public Sector Financials from Oracle Corp.

' Financials for Education and Government from PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.

Of the four companies, only PeopleSoft did not previously sell its products through the FMSS Schedule.

Agencies are not required to replace existing financial management systems, but when they do replace them they must use the approved products, JFMIP executive director Karen Cleary Alderman said.

The products are available on General Services Administration schedule contracts. But unlike the mandatory FMSS Schedule, agencies can buy the software using any procurement vehicle they choose.

The FMSS Schedule carried products from nine vendors. Besides the three that survived the JFMIP testing, the other vendors were Computer Data Systems Inc. of Rockville, Md.; ICF Information Technology Inc. of Fairfax; Keane Federal Systems Inc. of Rockville; KPMG Peat Marwick of New York; Orion Microsystems Inc. of Piscataway, N.J.; and Rel-Tek Systems Design Inc. of Monroeville, Pa.

The JFMIP product approvals were followed by a General Accounting Office report that said 17 of 20 agencies audited were using systems that did not meet the government's financial regulatory requirements.

Although the government created the FMSS Schedule to bring standardization to federal financial management, it left nearly everybody dissatisfied, Alderman said. The hope is that the JFMIP list will provide agencies with products that match their needs more precisely and that vendors will have a clearer understanding of the government's requirements, she said.

Another reason for the change was the migration from mainframe to client-server and Web technology, Alderman said. Many of the systems on the mandatory schedule were mainframe-centric.

The Office of Management and Budget, the Chief Financial Officers Council and JFMIP have been working on financial systems reform for some time. In August, OMB announced changes to OMB Circular A-130, which abandoned the FMSS Schedule. OMB policy and the Federal Acquisition Regulation now include language giving JFMIP authority to test and qualify financial software, Alderman said.

Before it could begin testing, JFMIP had to establish the Core Financial System Requirements. The requirements led to the creation of specifications for the product tests, which began in June [GCN, July 5, Page 1].

The testing is ongoing; vendors can submit products to JFMIP for possible inclusion on the list at any time. To gain a spot on the list, a product must pass all of the core requirements. The JFMIP certifications are good for three years.

The test also looks at nonmandatory, value-added functions, but those factors do not affect whether a package passes or fails, Alderman said.

The JFMIP testing does not mitigate an agency's responsibility for testing the packages themselves, she said. JFMIP does its tests on vendor-provided platforms. Agencies should test the software on their own systems, she said.

The products on JFMIP's approved list can be bought through schedule contracts or other procurement methods. The product certifications expire after three years.

Four on the floor

In the GAO report, Financial Management: Federal Financial Improvement Act Results for Fiscal Year 1998, issued last week, the congressional watchdog office said four agencies failed to report their standards-compliance status by GAO's deadline. GAO noted that the four agencies'the departments of State and Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration'complied with the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act in 1997.

Under the 1996 act, the 24 major agencies are required to annually verify their compliance with the government's financial systems requirements.

Although most agencies are not meeting the FFMIA standards, the report said the regulations are having an effect. 'Agencies are more aware of their financial management weaknesses and have started addressing them,' the report said.

Most agencies do not meet the requirements because their systems are not integrated and data is not reconciled, GAO said. Agencies also have problems accounting for assets, estimating the costs of liabilities and determining the extent of erroneous payments, the report said.

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