Government-wide Accounting Continues to Deliver Operational Excellence, While Implementing Revolutionary Change
By David Rebich, Assistant Commissioner, Government-wide Accounting
Having led the Financial Management Service (FMS) Government-wide Accounting (GWA) area in 2012, I believe it is valuable to restate our function and reflect on the past year.
The GWA area serves as the federal government's banker, providing the financial infrastructure for federal central accounting and government-wide reporting, the reconciliation of agency and bank reporting differences, and the generation of regular daily, monthly, and annual financial reports. From a reporting perspective, GWA is responsible for the collection of federal agency budgetary and proprietary data to produce federal financial publications. Primary publications include the Daily Treasury Statement (DTS), which reports operating cash activity and balances; the Monthly Treasury Statement (MTS), which reports the receipts, outlays, and surplus or deficit from a budgetary perspective; the Combined Statement, which reports on the annual activity and account balance for every Treasury Account Symbol; and finally, The Financial Report of the United States (FR), which is a compilation of Federal Program Agency (FPA) proprietary financial information into a single set of financial statements.
Commissioner David Lebryk has sent two letters to agency Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) as notification of upcoming FMS system changes and for the need for agency compliance by Oct. 1, 2014. The completion of the Government-wide Accounting Modernization Program (GWAMP) in December 2010 laid the foundation to modernize the federal government's Central Accounting and Reporting System (CARS), transforming current government-wide central accounting into real-time, event driven processes and enabling better financial management across government. Accordingly, GWA has been successfully implementing the CARS initiative, which will replace the legacy central accounting system, STAR, on October 2013.
GWA has a number of initiatives underway to address our major challenges, including eliminating intragovernmental transactions and resolving compilation issues in the FR. Both of these challenges require creative and innovative thinking in order to implement alternative solutions. In addition to the CARS initiative, GWA's priorities include; releasing the new Government-wide Treasury Account Symbol Adjusted Trial Balance System (GTAS) into production to consolidate four legacy systems and to be the pilot system for producing financial statements from adjusted trial balance data; releasing the General Fund/General Ledger application into production to complete the intragovernmental accounting model for authority activity; and continuing to address the intragovernmental issue with the new Intragovernmental Transformation Project (IGTP).
We are pleased with last year's reorganization efforts. We reintegrated daily operations with systems development and created a new Business Transformation Division and a separate Customer Relationship Management Division (CRMD) to conduct agency outreach efforts in support of FMS systems and other initiatives. CRMD responsibilities include:
Obtaining insights into agency-specific challenges to meet the Oct. 1, 2014, date for system changes;
Our employees in this division are professional, knowledgeable, extremely energetic and highly motivated to provide superior support to all agencies. Recently, CRMD conducted the annual "GWA Day," where a number of topics were presented including Intragovernmental Payment and Collection, GTAS, Data and Business Standards, Transaction Reporting System, and Payment Application Modernization. The sessions were well-received by agencies, so much so that some of them attended the second presentation of the same content.
I'd also like to highlight a couple of other key initiatives, including GTAS and IGTP. GTAS, scheduled for production in December 2012, will consolidate several legacy systems and agency reporting requirements, provide the federal financial community with the potential to transform the financial reporting model, and provide accurate and consistent accounting data to the public. GTAS also will help address the intra-governmental elimination issue by highlighting and reporting on accounting imbalances between trading partners. Finally, GWA and the Bureau of the Public Debt are piloting the use of GTAS to produce financial schedules and financial statements from adjusted trial balance data. If this concept is proven to be effective, it will assist with streamlining the financial reporting process across government and improve timeliness and consistency of proprietary accounting data available to the public.
GWA, in collaboration with Treasury's Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation, has initiated IGTP to focus specifically on addressing the intragovernmental elimination issue from various angles. First and foremost, we believe that the foundation to help address this issue is obtaining policy guidance, updating IGTP business rules, and identifying authoritative sources of intragovernmental transactions. An initiative currently is underway to work with agencies that we believe are the suppliers of authoritative source data to update guidance within our policies. This will implement positive changes with intragovernmental accounting and reporting processes. Additionally, our Financial Reports Division conducted quarterly intragovernmental analysis based on agency reported data to identify errors, misclassifications, and other issues contributing to intra-governmental imbalances. Between 2010 and 2011, these efforts have reduced the government-wide non-General Fund intra-governmental imbalance by 39 percent. We will continue to conduct this quarterly analysis using the existing process, until we start utilizing GTAS data for the analysis. Other IGTP initiatives include promoting consistent accounting application by agencies, increasing the frequency of reporting, and issuing agency performance scorecards.
In conjunction with GWA's efforts to resolve existing financial management challenges, we also are assessing opportunities to perform data analytics, trend analysis and business intelligence functions. Since GWA collects all federal agency data to publish the DTS, MTS and the FR, we believe that we are in a unique position to analyze the data and provide financial information from varying perspectives. In other words, through data analysis we believe we will be able to provide financial information for a specific event, such as federal costs related to Hurricane Irene. Our Business Transformation Division along with our operational organizations are evaluating alternatives to expand GWA beyond pure compilation and reporting.
I continue to be amazed, year-after-year, at the talent of GWA employees and their ability to step up to any challenge, no matter how big or small. I am proud of the GWA employees who continue to meet the mission, overcome obstacles, adjust and remain flexible to changing environments, who continue to deliver on the GWA promise of operational excellence, and who look ahead to implementing revolutionary change. In GWA, we are excited to face the future and its challenges head-on and hope to make a substantial impact to improve the government's financial management.
Editor's Note: Please note this article was drafted prior to Assistant Commissioner David Rebich's July 2, 2012 detail to the Bureau of the Public Debt's Office of Financing.