OMB: Agencies improve financial reporting

Agencies are expected to perform better than ever in their financial reporting to Congress, but federal managers still must improve key areas, including using more commercial financial management systems and modernizing financial practices with electronic commerce, according to a report issued last month by the Office of Management and Budget.

The report found that efforts in the six priority areas identified by the CFO Council, with guidance from OMB, 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. In financial audits of the 24 largest federal agencies conducted by the General Accounting Office earlier this year, only two - NASA and the National Science Foundation - received clean opinions.

But agencies have improved their financial management since then, primarily because more agencies are using commercial financial management systems that improve the government's ability to collect and use financial information regarding 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 inspectors general to improve the security of 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 among 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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