HHS tests finance system

The Department of Health and Human Services has started testing a new system for financial management.

HHS officials began tests on an Oracle Corp.-based financial management system two weeks ago at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, said John Gentile, program deputy director.

The pilot program will test six software modules, including general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, cost management, budget execution and funding. The first phase tests each module separately. The second phase, scheduled to start at CDC in March, will test how they interact with each other.

"We are seeing how the interfaces are working with real data and different transactions," Gentile said, speaking Aug. 12 at an HHS technology opportunity fair.

The department's 13 components use seven different financial systems. Development of a Unified Financial Management System (UFMS) started in fiscal 2001. HHS officials chose Oracle's Federal Financials as the core system, which is being configured for the department's specific needs, Gentile said.

The initial pilot is scheduled to last through August, to be followed by a review.

"We will have looked at all the gaps," Gentile said. "Where we have gaps, we will come up with solutions."

The new financial system includes a global track for all HHS agencies, and separate tracks for National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The NIH track started before the departmentwide project, and will eventually become part of the global plan.

Officials expect the system to go live at CDC in October 2004, and have the departmentwide system fully operational by 2007. The Office of Management and Budget is watching the project closely because it is the largest civilian implementation of a unified financial system ever undertaken, Gentile said.

The department at the same time is developing the new back office applications and e-government initiatives, Gentile said. As e-government plans have emerged, the department has had to change their timeline and requirements so they're are compatible with the new financial system. For example, for the E-Grants initiative, the department is merging seven or eight grant systems into two, Gentile said.

"We are constantly having to focus on how they will impact the tracks we go down," he said. "And that's no small feat."

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