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FCW : July 30, 2014
Shared services 18 July 30, 2014 FCW.COM The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act sets an aggressive schedule for creating governmentwide financial standards. The first challenge belongs to the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget. They must come up with a set of common data elements for financial information that will cover just about everything the government spends money on and every entity it pays in order to give oversight bodies and gov- ernment watchdogs a top-down view of federal spending from appropriation to expenditure. Those data elements are scheduled for completion by May 2015, one year after the act’s passage. Two years after those standards are in place, agencies will be required to report their financial information fol- lowing Data Act guidelines. The gov- ernment currently supports more than 150 financial management systems but lacks a common data dictionary, so there are not necessarily agreed- upon definitions of how to classify and track government programs and types of expenditures. “As far as systems today and how we can get there, they don’t necessarily map in the way that the act described,” U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel said in June. “It’s going to be a journey to get to where the act aspires for us to be.” However, an Obama administra- tion initiative to encourage agencies to share financial services could be part of the solution. In May, OMB and Trea- sury designated four financial shared- services providers for government agencies: the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center, the Interior The agency will no longer provide shared services in those areas to focus on core competencies, such as acquisition and IT BY MARK ROCKWELL In the past few months, the General Services Administration has been qui- etly moving away from providing some financial shared services, and experts say that’s probably not a bad thing. GSA had been offering shared ser- vices such as accounting and payroll through its Federal Integrated Solutions Center for years, but in a May 2 memo, the Office of Management and Budget left GSA off a list of agencies that will provide those services in the future. The White House is also updating a plan to spread the use of shared ser- vices across government under its fed- eral shared-service providers initiative. In July and August, according to OMB’s second-quarter report, FSSP requires providers to develop and begin imple- menting plans to address capability/ capacity needs and establish principles for governmentwide shared-services governance. The move was not a surprise. At an ACT-IAC conference last fall, Anne Rung, who was then associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, said the agency was moving away from offering shared services for human resources after determining that such services are not among the agency’s core strengths. Instead, GSA would put more emphasis on acquisition, real estate and IT, Rung said. Last September, GSA issued a formal request for information seeking advice on how to withdraw as a provider of HR services that include personnel manage- ment, personnel action processing, ben- efits and retirement services, training and education, specialized support for small agencies and financial manage- ment. At the time of her remarks, Rung told FCW that a timeline for the with- drawal had not been finalized. In the May memo, OMB and the Trea- sury Department designated four finan- cial management shared-services pro- viders that can provide core accounting and other ser- vices to federal agencies. The Agri- culture Department’s National Finance Center, the Interior Department’s Interior Business Center, the Transportation Department’s Enterprise Services Center and Treasury’s Administrative Resource Center are ready to support agencies’ efforts to modernize their financial sys- tems, according to OMB. Additional providers or product offer- ings might be designated in the coming years as lessons are learned from the initial four providers. Multiple experts told FCW that OMB’s move was probably for the best — not because GSA failed to provide adequate services but because financial services are not among the agency’s core competencies. “GSA doesn’t have the depth of experience” in financial services that other agencies do, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council. “To his credit, [GSA Administrator Dan] Tangherlini has focused on his agency’s core strengths of acquisition, real estate and fleet management.” ■ GSA steps away from financial, HR services
July 15, 2014
August 15, 2014