Group updates guide for financial systems

The governmentwide organization responsible for setting standards for agency financial-management systems has unveiled a plan to revise those systems, calling for more flexibility and greater detail.

The Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (JFMIP) last week issued the new draft regarding the "backbone" modules of an agency's integrated financial-management systems — the first revision of the standards in three years.

In theory, the requirements are the centerpiece of efforts to improve federal financial-management systems by enabling more agencies to use commercial products — rather than more expensive systems customized for individual agencies. The goal is to reduce costs and improve the likelihood that agencies can successfully deploy products.

The requirements lay out the minimum level of operation that core financial systems must have to support agency missions and comply with laws and regulations, according to the draft.

The proposed changes are the first since JFMIP assumed responsibility for certifying the government's core financial-management systems in 1999. If enacted later this year by JFMIP — a policy group that includes the General Accounting Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Treasury Department — the changes will set new requirements for agencies buying financial-management systems and for vendors selling such systems.

The document also is the basis for JFMIP to test compliance of commercial financial systems.

Although the draft entails many changes to the requirements, about 75 percent of the document remains the same, JFMIP executive director Karen Cleary Alderman said.

Most changes were made to clarify issues that have arisen in the past three years, JFMIP senior associate Stephen Balsam said. "The biggest change will be further clarification," he said.

The revised document includes some items that were classified as "value-added" items in the 1999 version, Balsam said. For example, the new requirements call for a revolving fund, which was regarded earlier as value-added, he said.

Some agencies also have pushed for certain items to fall under mandatory testing by JFMIP in the certification process.

The three-year certification period for most financial-management products is set to expire Sept. 30, 2002. JFMIP officials wanted to establish the requirements in time to give vendors a chance to respond and get certified under the new set of requirements, Balsam said.

Comments on the draft are due by Aug. 20. JFMIP officials hope to have the new requirements in place by Oct. 1 and begin testing systems soon after.

MORE INFO

Facts on finances

A snapshot of the 24 agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act during fiscal 1999 revealed:

* There are 640 financial systems.

* There are 971 applications.

* $2.4 billion is spent annually on financial systems.

* 13 percent of the systems are commercial products.

* 62 percent of the system applications will conclude in the next five years.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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