Moving from Scorekeeper to Strategic Partner: Improving Financial Management
This project arose from a request by the Chair of the House Subcommittee on government Management, Finance and Accountability, who asked the National Academy to examine ways to strengthen the financial management of the federal government in the 21st century.
To address these issues, the Academy formed a workgroup of Academy Fellows and expert staff to examine potential reforms. The workgroup members and staff have significant background in the financial management environment and brought their expertise to bear on this effort. The workgroup conducted 10 meetings with approximately 50 management experts from the federal government and private industry and received input on how best to improve federal financial management. These experts were drawn from among chief and deputy chief financial managers, financial management systems designers and implementers, private sector representatives, and the inspector general and program management communities.
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The Chair sought wide-ranging analysis focused on 10 key issues:
- The possible need to consolidate and streamline financial management laws and regulations in order to enhance the associated benefits;
- An assessment of the long-term objectives for financial management— “where the government should be”;
- Methods needed to improve internal controls and overall financial accountability;
- Methods needed to enhance the strategic focus of financial managers;
- Elimination of burdensome requirements and reporting;
- Ways to facilitate the effective and efficient implementation of financial systems;
- The need to improve financial management systems, especially budget systems;
- The need to integrate performance, budget and accountability activities;
- Ways to make financial data more usable to decision makers; and
- Ways to best organize the delivery of financial management services and integration of finance with other core administrative functions.
Seven recommendations were made to improve financial management in the federal government. They are intended to help clarify roles, document effective practices, and enhance leadership development:
- Enact a single, integrated financial management system;
- Make the chief financial officer responsible for all financial management functions;
- Establish a new “designated official” position to oversee all administrative functions, including finance, information technology, human capital, and procurement;
- Use existing internal control evaluation and reporting procedures to bring about the timely correction of previously reported material weaknesses prior to expending substantial resources to obtain additional reports. Establish sanctions for agencies that do not correct these deficiencies within a concrete time frame;
- Require the budget and financial management communities to develop specifications for standard budget formulation and performance management system software;
- Encourage the OMB and department and agency heads to take a more aggressive oversight role in the implementation of financial systems, and ensure that sufficient resources are made available for this oversight;
- Authorize a study to explore the value and feasibility of a new and simplified approach to accounting transactions; and
- Encourage training, development, and recruitment from within the financial management community.