Critical Read

Is the 25-year-old CFO Act ready for the future?

dollar signs

What: "The CFO Act at 25: Perspectives from Two Decades of CFO Surveys and Prospects for the Future," a report from the Association of Government Accountants and Grant Thornton.

Why: The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 sought to improve agencies' financial reporting, reduce government waste and mismanagement, and provide more complete, timely financial information for oversight bodies and internal watchdogs. Subsequent reforms, including most recently the Data Accountability and Transparency Act, have put more emphasis on openness, standardization and consolidation in federal financial systems.

The new report, which analyzes 20 years of CFO surveys, concludes that federal financial managers have "accomplished a number of goals the CFO Act sought to achieve," but agencies "still experience many of the same shortcomings that plagued the government in 1990."

Specifically, despite a push toward shared services, current financial systems are uncoordinated and lack standards, CFOs still do not have the information they need to manage programs efficiently, and CFO roles and responsibilities differ from agency to agency.

CFOs surveyed for the report noted that since the law was implemented, new occupants have been added to the C-suite -- including chief risk officers, chief data officers and others -- and their responsibilities often overlap with those of financial managers, which weakens the CFO role. Additionally, CFOs are charged with so many compliance duties that it can be challenging for them to address broader management reforms.

Verbatim: "The CFO Act itself is at a crucial junction. Having successfully achieved the initial goals of establishing the discipline and systems that provide auditable, detailed financial data, does the CFO become the spearhead for performing the broader functions that the authors of the CFO Act envisioned and for which they are often best equipped? Or does the CFO retreat to the role of the person almost exclusively responsible for financial integrity?"

Read the full report.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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