CFOs want to move beyond compliance

Federal chief financial officers want to move beyond compliance as the major part of their jobs and begin to add value to agency operations and strategy, according to an annual survey recently released by the Association of Government Accountants and Grant Thornton.

The government overall has done a better job of financial management and internal controls over the last seven years, the majority of CFOs reported. For example, agencies overall keep better books and the financial information is more accurate, they said in a survey released July 30.

“The issues addressed in this year’s survey help to set the stage for the opportunities and challenges that will face the next administration,” said Clifton Williams, Grant Thornton partner and principal author of the survey. “Reviewing the results of the 2008 CFO survey, one senses a higher readiness for change than in previous years,” he noted.

CFOs want to become trusted advisers to department and agency heads with the time and resources needed for that role, the survey reported.

Among the areas of concern for the 239 federal CFOs who responded were financial reporting, standards, internal controls, human capital management and the CFOs' future role. The current model for agency financial reporting is expensive and delivers little useful information to federal decision-makers, according to most CFOs. New reporting models should be more transparent to citizens. Agencies also should use a risk management approach to improve the quality of financial reporting, the survey reported.

The emphasis on internal controls for financial reporting under the Office of Management and Budget’s revised Circular A-123, has improved their financial statements and operations and information security, a majority of the CFOs reported. Their work on A-123 has reduced the risk of financial waste, fraud and abuse, such as improper payments, according to 90 percent of those surveyed.

Now agencies need to apply that rigor and monitor controls on program efficiency and effectiveness, the CFOs said.

Consolidating and integrating the many requirements for financial and controls monitoring and reporting could reduce the CFOs’ workload, the survey reported. Agencies can combine compliance activities to save time and money, and this would help integrate controls on processes that cross organizational boundaries, according to the survey's  findings.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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