Drag FMS schedule into the '90s

As the House Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee begins the messy task of sifting through agencies' mistake-riddled audit reports, it is abundantly clear that procurement reform has left untouched one of the most critical management concerns for every agency: the acquisition of financial management system (FMS) software.

The poor state of agencies' financial systems was revealed by the General Accounting Office's first-ever audit of the government's consolidated financial statement. Among its findings, GAO reported that the Defense Department could not locate some weapons and the Treasury Department could not account for $100 billion in transactions. The mainstream media played this story as yet another example of bungling bureaucrats wasting taxpayers' dollars. The problem is not indolence but rather the result of a complicated process that agencies must follow to buy FMS software.

The General Services Administration now tests FMS software, but agencies also conduct evaluations to make sure the products meet their own needs— all of which draws out the procurement of FMS to more than a year in some cases. On top of that, the systems do not perform as expected, and some of the most popular FMS products are not even on the GSA schedule. Yet agencies are bound by law to buy FMS software off this schedule.

The whole morass is a throwback to the problems that plagued agencies before procurement reform. The good news that is Treasury's Joint Financial Management Improvement Program, which is looking into improving the state of FMS management, has asked Congress for $3 million to fund a program that will give agencies "consumer reports" on FMS software. And GSA's FMS schedule will expire Sept. 30. Good riddance. But GSA is still waiting for the Chief Financial Officers Council and for Treasury to recommend what kind of FMS schedule it should develop. With only five months left, we would hope more would be known. Given the billions of dollars and possibly national security at stake, we urge these groups to catch up with the times and reform the procurement process for FMS.

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