Navigating a course takes accurate data

Financial management is a subject that can often seem complex and arcane. But proponents of money management warn that good financial systems are its cornerstone.

Auditors argue that well-managed financial systems are critical beyond the mandate of having auditable books—although they note that those books are important to preventing waste, fraud and abuse. But the true value of real-time financial data is to aid day-to-day decisions.

"Accurate and timely financial information serves as the steering mechanism by which programs can be managed in an effective, efficient and economical manner," said Roger Viadero, the Agriculture Department's inspector general, during a recent congressional hearing. "Without this capability, the course cannot be navigated."

Annual audits and clean financial books ensure that an organization has sound practices, said U.S. Comptroller General David Walker in congressional testimony this year. The final goal: to produce "useful financial information and sound controls with which to make informed decisions and to ensure accountability on an ongoing basis," he said.

"It's having good information for making decisions," said Greg Kutz, director of financial management and assurance at the General Accounting Office.

Legally, there has been an alphabet soup of laws that has reformed the way agencies manage money, including the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, the Government Management Reform Act of 1994, the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996.

Under those laws, the largest departments and agencies must establish CFOs, audit financial statements annually and set expectations for agencies to deploy more modern financial management systems and produce cost and operating performance information.

Such data becomes critical when an agency is considering outsourcing operations, Kutz said. "I'm not sure how you can make a valid decision" without such elemental data.

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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