Experts: More people needed for money oversight

Industry experts today told a House subcommittee that the focus on financial management at federal agencies isn't honed enough and that additional workforce resources need to be devoted to the governmentwide initiative.

Four executives — George Cruser, a partner with IBM Business Consulting Services; Robin Lineberger, a senior vice president at BearingPoint Inc.; Greg Pellegrino, a partner in Deloitte Consulting's public sector; and David Halstead, vice president of the Bradson Corp. — testified today before the House Government Reform Committee's Government Efficiency and Financial Management Subcommittee about the role of sector consultants and integrators.

Federal financial management is one of the keys to the President's Management Agenda. Most agencies — 20 out of 23 — received clean audits this year, with the Defense Department standing out for having never received a clean audit.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) asked the executives if the government is dedicating enough resources to buying and implementing secure financial management systems. IBM's Cruser said not enough talent was being pulled off the line to focus on financial management.

"I believe there are enough resources, but people in the agencies are being asked to do their day jobs and to do financial management around that," Cruser said.

Agencies are worried about trade-offs — pulling employees off of their regular tasks to focus elsewhere — affecting their day-to-day business, Lineberger said

Deloitte's Pellegrino took it a step further, saying that the government isn't devoting enough resources — financial and human capital — to the program.

"In commercial [financial management] improvements, we see a one-to-one match of people" working on company operations and financial management, Pellegrino said. "But in the government, the resources aren't there. Even if they were there, they might not be made available to financial management projects, because agencies have a lot of priorities."

Each executive also said resistance to change, particularly by middle and lower managers, is slowing the process and creating friction when new financial systems do come.

"When agency secretaries pitch their new financial management systems, their business cases are just about cost savings," Lineberger said. The middle managers "are fearful with where they'll find those cost savings and efficiencies. It creates a personal risk around the job."

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