HHS will post financial data online

HHS will post financial data online


The Health and Human Services Department will put one of its management information systems on the Web next year, after three years of work on the project.

Harry Bradford, center, Sherri Diaz and Brian Harris have put HHSs financial system on the Web.
The Financial Assistance Reporting System, which has been in use since the 1970s, needs an upgrade, said Harry C. Bradford, director of HHS' Payment Management Division.

'It's not user-friendly, has information stored on tapes, cannot handle the workload and involves a lot of manual effort,' he said.

Who's In Charge

Brian P. Burns

Deputy Chief Information Officer and Deputy Assistant Secretary for IRM

James Eatmon

Director, Office of Information Services, Administration on Children and Families

James D. Seligman

CIO, Centers for Disease Control and

Gary G. Christoph

Director, Office of Information Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Richard M. Church

CIO, Indian Health Service

William M. Bristow II

CIO, Food and Drug Administration

Alan S. Graeff

CIO, National Institutes of Health

Top Contractors

CTRW Inc.$90.0
SRA International Inc.$44.5
Research Triangle Institute Inc.$38.5
Science Applications International Corp.$37.8
Computer Sciences Corp.$37.2
IBM Corp.$33.0
Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc.$28.0
Verizon Communications Inc.$26.8
Electronic Data Systems Corp. $21.1
Pathology Associates International$17.3
Synectics for Management Decisions Inc.$13.3

Steep rise in IT spending

Source: Health and Human Services Department and Input of Chantilly, Va.

FARS, which Bradford's division maintains, runs on an IBM Corp. mainframe and uses code written in Cobol.

The system collects funding data from the 12 HHS agencies and produces the annual report, Financial Assistance by Geographic Area, every March.

The report provides data on all HHS domestic assistance programs, said Sherri Diaz, senior accountant at the management division. It identifies funding amounts given to grant recipients by state, county, city and congressional district. The report also identifies program titles and the HHS agency that assigned the funds, she said.

The management division publishes a 100-page report for each of the department's 10 regions. HHS, Congress, state and local governments, and grant recipients use the reports as a primary source of information on federal financial assistance, Diaz said.

Federal regulations call for the department to report grants to programs in cities with a population of more than 25,000. But the reports include all cities that received HHS funds, regardless of population.

Agencies submit data to the management division each quarter in a record format made up of 16 fields. The fields include the taxpayer identification number issued by the IRS, amount of the award, and dates when funding will begin and end, Diaz said.

The management division developed a Central Registry System to establish codes to identify individuals, organizations or divisions that conduct business with HHS under federal domestic assistance programs, Diaz said.

Record check

FARS checks the employee identification number from each record against the registry to determine the type of program recipient, such as college, hospital, law enforcement agency or Indian tribe, she said. The registry is housed at the National Institutes of Health computer center in Bethesda, Md.

HHS awarded the contract to upgrade FARS to Aldmyr Systems Inc. of Lanham, Md., in 1998.

FARS will reside on a 667-MHz Compaq Alpha Server EV6 running an Oracle8 Release 8.0.5 database under Compaq TRU64 Unix Version 4.0F, said Brian W. Harris, chief of payment management's Account Reporting Branch.

Diaz said one of the major problems with the mainframe is its limited search capability. Reports are sorted by record number, which makes searches slow, tedious and complicated.

'Many people are not even aware that we come out with such a report,' she said. With the new system, HHS can put the report on the Web and give access to a greater number of users, she added.

The system will feature a query section where users can type the name of a state, city or district and retrieve reports for the last 10 years, Diaz said.

'We will also have pull-down menus, easier and simpler access to data, and capabilties to do trend analysis,' she said.

Major Programs
' Data Web. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, in partnership with the Census Bureau, is developing a Web infrastructure that will allow access to data from various sites. Users will be able to access demographic, economic, environmental, health and other data from around the country. The system, now in beta testing, will include search, query, extract, visualization and data analysis functions. A limited version, which will include mapping, graphics and statistics, will be available by the end of this year.

' Enterprise Human Resources and Payroll. HHS is replacing its human resources and payroll system with one based on an HR application from PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., for the federal government. The department will initially tie the new app to its legacy system.

' Epi Info 2000. CDC is enhancing its homegrown software, Epi Info, which is used to design questionnaires, manage data and produce graphical analyses, maps and epidemiological statistics. The agency will make the software compatible with commercial database systems and emerging data standards. Standard reports will streamline information analysis and presentation, as will adding audio and video capabilities.

' Secure Data Network. CDC is testing a version of its network to manage access to its Web applications by state and local health departments. Once a user gains access to SDN, data sent to and from the user is encrypted and cannot be modified without detection.


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