Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

Improving Financial Management

Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

Improving Financial Management

Article excerpt

Governments are finally recognizing the importance of professional financial management. Revenue bases are no longer growing, governments are expected to provide more programs and the taxpayers want more value. Hence, elected officials are asking the program managers to focus their limited resources on achieving specific results and to consider the financial implications of their program actions. At the same time, they are expanding the role of financial managers and are looking to fill the positions with employees who possess extensive knowledge in a wide variety of functional areas.

The Association of Government Accountants' Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) program is a response to this call for an increased level of professionalism in government financial managers. The CGFM Program seeks to identify and designate individuals who have knowledge in many functional areas and know how to apply it in a government setting.

The designation further recognizes that the knowledge brought to government financial management differs significantly from private sector financial management expertise. The key elements of the CGFM program are the three examinations that have been designed to determine whether an individual has this unique knowledge as defined by the CGFM program. This article explains the comprehensive development of three separate examinations that candidates must pass to become certified as well as the subject matter covered by each exam.


The development of a successful and professionally defensible certification exam must follow a rigorous plan. The process followed during the development of the CGFM exam was defined by the Chauncey Group International, a wholly owned subsidiary of the world-renowned Educational Testing Service. Chauncey guided and participated in every step. The Content Specifications Outline

The process started with the development, by the CGFM Professional Certification Board, of a Content Specifications Outline. The purpose of a Content Specifications Outline is to define the body of knowledge to be covered on the exam. This complex effort was undertaken by the Association of Government Accountants' Professional Certification Board. Other purposes for the outline are to establish the foundation from which the exam is developed, assure consistent coverage on the exam over time, communicate the content of the exam to interested parties, aid candidates preparing for the exam and provide information to the designers of exam preparation courses.

In the Content Specifications Outline, the board declared what an individual should know in order to perform as a government financial manager. The outline did not, however, include the technical aspects of the various disciplines in which a government financial manager might work. For instance, it did not include extensive aspects of accounting theory, auditing practice or information management. The board concluded that the examinations for other professions, such as the Certified Internal Auditor, Certified Information Systems Auditor, Certified Management Accountant or Certified Public Accountant, test for knowledge in those disciplines. The purpose of the CGFM exam is to determine whether a person knows the why and the how of those professions in government settings.

The board's goal in defining the scope of the certification can be summarized in the following example. A city council or agency manager seeking a director of finance can currently conclude that candidates holding a Certified Public Accountant designation know something about accounting or auditing. The use of CGFM after a candidate's name, however, tells them that the candidate knows how to practice accounting and auditing in government as defined by the Professional Certification Board.

Testing Objectives

The next step was to prepare one or more testing objectives for each element in the Content Specifications Outline. …

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