OMB: Agencies making strides in financial functions

While federal agencies are expected to perform better than ever in their financial reporting to Congress, key areas of improvement include wider use of commercial financial management systems and modernizing financial practices with electronic commerce, according to a report issued publicly Wednesday by the Office of Management and Budget.

"The 1999 Federal Financial Management Status Report and Five-Year Plan" found that efforts in the six priority areas identified by OMB and the CFO Council have had a significant impact on the way agencies perform their financial functions. The plan is the eighth to be prepared under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, and next year, 23 of the 24 agencies covered by the act are expected to receive unqualified audit opinions on their fiscal 1999 statements.

One reason is that more agencies are using commercial financial management systems that improve the ability to collect and use financial information on federal programs. This follows several steps taken in the past year by the CFO Council, the General Services Administration and the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program to make it easier for agencies to acquire systems that meet revised federal requirements.

Initiatives for the next year include the CFO Council partnering with the Information Technology Resource Board to assess agency financial management system infrastructures and partnering with the CIO Council and agency inspector generals to improve the security of the information within financial systems.

Agency use of purchase cards and electronic funds transfer also increased in fiscal 1998, saving at least $800 million in administrative costs. Over the next year, initiatives include expanding the use of electronic data interchange transactions between agencies, citizens and vendors, expanding agencies' ability to collect payments from the public over the Internet and enhancing the Treasury Department's Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.

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