Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

On the Threshold of Change in Government

Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

On the Threshold of Change in Government

Article excerpt

The world is rapidly changing. his inaugural address, President Clinton spoke of "reinventing America." The President said, "It is time to radically change the way government operates--to shift from top-down bureaucracy to an entrepreneurial government that empowers citizens and communities to change our country from the bottom up." Perhaps for the first time in modern history, a President has raised management improvement to the level of a major administration policy goal.

American companies have spent the past decade modernizing to meet competitive and technological changes. The federal government is just now on the threshold of change and is beginning to face up to the realities of a huge deficit and the public perception that government is not working as it should. People at all levels of government are beginning to better understand the importance of having sound, reliable financial information readily available, in order to make tough choices and provide accountability. From all indications, it appears that over these next few years, all of us in government will be required to materially enhance our operations, while at the same time, contend with substantial staff reductions. As the President stated, "we can no longer afford to pay more for and get less from--our government."

The Association of Government Accountants (AGA) has played a major role in a wide range of financial management issues and must continue to do so in the future. One of AGA's most notable initiatives was assisting Congress in the development and passage of the Chief Financial Officer's Act of 1990. This Act required the appointment of Chief Financial Officers (CFO) in all large federal departments. But the Act itself cannot ensure that these political appointees have the required credentials to competently serve in these critical positions. AGA recognized that simply filling these jobs through political patronage would not serve the best interest of the financial management community.

In this regard, on February 8, 1993, AGA submitted a letter to President Clinton which, in part, encouraged him to appoint professionally qualified financial managers with strong leadership experience to the CFO and Deputy CFO positions. It is important to note that unlike many of the CFOs appointed under the previous administration, the individuals appointed to the CFO positions by President Clinton are extremely well qualified. This will have a positive impact on government financial management and effectively demonstrate how important management reform is to the current administration.

The CFO Act also established a CFO Council which included CFOs from the major departments of the government. An indication that the current CFOs are committed to real change is shown by the recent actions taken by the Council. This Council is now playing a proactive role in financial management reform. During the previous administration, this Council was comprised of the CFOs in the major departments and agencies and met quarterly. A CFO Council Operations Group consisting of the Deputy CFOs met monthly.

The current CFOs determined that to more effectively address financial management issues, the CFO Council should be expanded to include the Deputy CFOs, and that monthly meetings should be held to address critical problems that need to be solved. To fully accomplish the tasks at hand, the Council held elections to fill leadership positions that they established, including Executive Vice Chair, Vice Chair for Legislation, Vice Chair for Programs, and Secretary/Treasurer. Two politically appointed CFOs along with two career executives were elected to fill these positions.

The CFO Council has articulated a vision for government-wide financial management. This vision will become the cornerstone of future planning efforts, and proclaims: "Enabling government to work better and cost less requires program and financial managers, working in partnership, using modern management techniques and integrated financial management systems, to assure the integrity of information, to make decisions and measure performance to achieve desirable outcomes and real cost effectiveness. …

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