Treasury baiting better financial data

The Treasury Department has decided to use a carrot rather than a stick

to persuade its bureaus to supply the department with better financial data.

The carrot, in this case, is an application called the Financial Analysis

and Reporting System (FARS), which the department uses to produce a consolidated

financial statement for the Treasury and its 28 bureaus and offices.

FARS, developed in conjunction with SAS Institute North America, also comes

with a SAS data analysis tool, called CFO Vision, for analyzing that aggregate

data — slicing and dicing it to produce a wide variety of financial reports.

Of course, such a system is only as good as the quality of the data it contains,

and sometimes the data provided by the bureaus is full of errors, said Steven

App, the agency's deputy chief financial officer.

Treasury has determined one way to encourage its bureaus to take more care

in producing financial data is to give them a stake in its accuracy. Giving

them access to FARS and CFO Vision is one compelling way to do that, said

App, speaking Monday at the Government CIO Summit in Savannah, Ga.

"The more they get to use their own data, the more the accuracy of the data

will keep improving," he said.

Not only does FARS pull together information from multiple bureaus; in some

cases, it consolidates data from multiple systems within a bureau. Some

bureaus, working with five or six different financial systems, would want

to have access to that aggregate view, App said.

Initially, Treasury plans to provide the bureaus with FARS data and CFO

Vision on CD-ROM. But the department plans to create a Web-enabled version

of the application, so bureaus can tap into it via the Internet.

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