From STAR to CARS:
GWA Replaces the Current Central Accounting System
By GWA, Customer Relationship Management Division
In January 2011, the Commissioner of the Financial Management Service (FMS) issued a letter to Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) of federal agencies regarding the status of FMS's various modernization initiatives. FMS's Government-wide Accounting (GWA) area has been promoting the Commissioner's CFO letter, emphasizing the need for agencies to modify their current reporting process to move toward daily classification reporting. By Oct. 1, 2014, agencies will need to include accounting classification information, e.g., Treasury Account Symbol (TAS) and Business Event Type Codes (BETC), on their daily reporting through source systems such as Intra-Governmental Payment and Collection (IPAC), Secure Payment System, and the Transaction Reporting System. This means that month-end reporting of the Statements of Transactions (SoT) (SF 224, 1219/1220, 1218/1221) will no longer be needed, thereby eliminating the redundant reporting procedures that exist today. This also will provide FMS with the ability to present a daily picture of agencies' Fund Balance with Treasury (FBWT), and the ability for agencies to reclassify transactions daily as needed. While agencies continue to work on their transition to comply with this 2014 TAS/BETC mandate, GWA has been working simultaneously on the replacement of the current central accounting system, STAR, by completing the final development phases of the new Central Accounting and Reporting System (CARS).
What is STAR?
STAR is a mainframe-based system, written in the COBOL programming language, and created in the 1980s as an internal system with a small number of users. STAR gathers information collected from various sources, with daily inputs from downstream feeder systems (such as IPAC system), as well as monthly inputs from SoT reports (such as the 224, 1219/1220, and 1218/1221). At the end of the month, based on these various sources, STAR generates output reports (such as the Statement of Differences [SoD]), which presents reconciliation discrepancies from the redundant reporting procedures. Two other major outputs from STAR are the Monthly Treasury Statement (MTS) and the Treasury Combined Statement (TCS).
Disadvantages of STAR
One of the major limitations of STAR is the lack of capability to provide FBWT information back to customers on a timely basis. Since the inputs to FBWT in STAR are monthly, the resulting output reports can only be monthly as well. In addition, although internal FMS users can see these FBWT reports within STAR, external FPAs must access external systems (previously GOALS II Undisbursed Reports, now replaced by the Account Statement). Other output reports produced by STAR also have disadvantages. The reporting structures of the MTS and TCS are rigid, with minimal flexibility in reacting to management, policy, or political changes. Finally, due to the obsolete COBOL programming language and limited resources with COBOL skills, it is challenging and complex to fix or enhance STAR.
The CARS replacement and its advantages
GWA has made significant progress over the last year to replace the current central accounting system with the development of CARS. GWA has migrated most of the applications under the GOALS II system to the CARS system. Applications such as Partial 224, Undisbursed, Non-Expenditure Transfers, among others, have been successfully migrated. This eliminates the need for agencies to access disparate applications through different websites, instead agencies can submit these reports to one central system at FMS, and receive their output reports from that same system.
In the upcoming year, GWA will continue to migrate STAR functionality into CARS, such as the compilation and publication of the MTS and TCS, support of account creation and maintenance, and more robust output reports. The CARS system will provide enhancements to these current FMS processes, allowing for streamlining, more flexibility, timeliness and accuracy.
Once CARS becomes the official system of record, significant advantages will include:
A centralized place for FPA reporting,
More timely access of data,
Elimination of redundant reporting, and
More streamlined and flexible output reports.
Summary of Primary Differences Between STAR and CARS
COBOL programming language
JAVA programming language
Accessed by internal users only and a limited number of FPAs.
Outwardly facing, allows FPAs to access for direct input of transactions, and for download and printing of reports on demand.
Transactions are submitted, and reports are provided, by external, disparate applications (GOALS, see table below).
Transactions are submitted, and reports are provided, in one central system.
Accounting classification (FBWT) updated monthly via Statement of Transactions (SoT) reports.
Accounting classification (FBWT) updated daily via TAS/BETC reporting through down-stream feeder systems.
Month-end SoT reports are compared to data from down-stream feeder systems (duplicate reporting process), thereby creating Statement of Differences (SoD).
Single stream of accounting classification data, so no duplicate reporting processes and no SoDs.
Reclassification transactions can only be submitted at month-end during the 3-day SoT window.
Reclassifications transactions can be submitted daily, any time during the accounting month.
Summary of Applications Migrated from GOALS to CARS
Classification, Transactions, and Accountability
Agency Transaction Module
Statement Of Difference
Statement Of Difference
Agency Assistance for Getting On Board with CARS
In an effort to assist agencies in meeting compliance with the CFO letter and the Oct. 1, 2014, mandate, GWA created the Customer Relationship Management Division (CRMD). CRMD serves as the primary information hub for GWA communication, outreach and Agency Location Codes (ALCs) transition. Various agency ALCs will continue to run parallel programs while CRMD assists them in converting or migrating to this modernized way of reporting.