Magazine article Public Finance

How a US City Benefits from a Close Look at Its Finances

Magazine article Public Finance

How a US City Benefits from a Close Look at Its Finances

Article excerpt

The city of Redmond in Washington is small, with 60,000 citizens. Located 16 miles east of Seattle, it is home to several signifi cant technology companies, such as Microsoft and Nintendo. Total employment in our city is about 85,000, with most of those jobs in the technology sector. As a result, we are a technology-focused community and expectations for the management of city fi nances are high.

When I came in as chief fi nance offi cer, I wanted to get a good sense of the fi nancial health of the organisation and assess our ability to manage our community's resources well. This would enable us to deliver very good value for money to the community and the businesses it supported.

At the same time, we were working on our organisational culture so it would become one that aspires to excellence at all levels. Th e concept of continuous improvement is part of that cultural shift. We believe that any organisation can fi nd opportunities for improvement if you look for them.

With that in mind, we started a "high performing organisation" initiative. Adopting the CIPFA Financial Management (FM) model made perfect sense in this environment. By design, the model exposes areas of the operations to scrutiny that might otherwise be overlooked.

CIPFA was off ering its FM modelling tool to practitioners across North America. Having been involved with the eff ort to tailor the self-assessment tool to meet the requirements of standard setters in the US, it helped me to understand how well public fi nancial management (PFM) was embedded across all our departments. Th e FM model proved to be very comprehensive and allowed us to benchmark internal functions and assesses how well we understood PFM.

I particularly liked the way the self-assessment tool was laid out, with diff erent areas of focus including: securing stewardship; supporting performance; and enabling performance. It meant it would deliver a comprehensive review of our fi nancial state.

The ultimate goal was to transform fi nancial management responsibilities. This called for employees to see their work diff erently. Rather than focus on the task directly in front of them, the model enables a broader view, where staff can see how they add value to our community through their eff orts. More importantly, it also allows them to see how they could add much more value and "enable a transformation" of the function to benefi t our stakeholders.

Once the self-assessment tool had been completed by all stakeholders and the reports collated, we shared the results at several levels. We reviewed the results internally to understand where there were opportunities to invest in improvement eff orts. Th e comprehensive nature of the FM model helped us to avoid overlooking some aspects of our operations. …

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