SSA, EPA Rewarded with A Green Light on Scorecard
Camara, Christina M., The Journal of Government Financial Management
Dale W. Sopper, CGFM, hesitates to describe himself as an old-fashioned manager, but those qualities helped the Social Security Administration (SSA) become a better-managed agency that is more accountable to the people it serves.
Sopper, a member of AGA's Baltimore Chapter, has led the agency through a major transformation in its financial management processes that resulted in two important milestones. First, last summer, the agency received a green score on the financial management portion of the President's Management Agenda. second, SSA metthe accelerated reporting deadline for annual reports. The audit of the year-end report was completed 45 days after the end of the 2002 fiscal year, beating the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) requirement by two years. SSA also achieved this objective for fiscal year 2003.
The push for accelerated and increased reporting is a central part of the President's Management Agenda, a plan announced in 2001 to improve the management of the federal government. It established criteria in five categories: human capital management, competitive sourcing, financial management, e-government and integrating budget and program performance. The OMB rates compliance with the plan's criteria every quarter through a traffic light system, with green indicating success, yellow meaning mixed results and red for unsatisfactory.
Sopper, SSA's deputy commissioner for Finance, Assessment and Management, said he helped the agency getfrom yellow to green by following three simple rules: creating an action plan, setting goals and ensuring managers are accountable to meet the goals.
Sopper considered himself head coach of the team. he served as a mentor, offering constructive suggestions, breaking down goals into manageable tasks, helping managers when they ran into roadblocks, providing encouragement and incentives and being responsible forthe overall plan.
Another important element was the "outstanding cooperation" from Inspector General Jim Huse, who worked diligently with the agency to help it meet the criteria forthe green light, Sopper said.
"SSA has outstanding people," he said. "That is really key-people who are technically competent and who are committed. Here at SSA we're uniquely endowed and richly blessed that we have such top-flight people."
Those top-flight people pushed SSAupa notch on OM B's traffic Hg ht system, and kept it there. The Environmental Protection Agency also "got to green" last year, and the National Science Foundation was the first and only agency to earn the successful rating from the start. all three agencies maintained their green rating on the last scorecard, issued on Dec. 31,2003. The Education Department moved to green as well.
In financial management, the criteria for getting a green light include:
* Obtaining a clean audit opinion on financial statements;
* Meeting financial reporting deadlines;
* Complying with the 1982 Federal Managers Financial Integrity Act, with no material weaknesses for sections 2 and 4;
* Producing accurate financial information that is used day-to-day; and
* Achieving no chronic or significant Anti-Deficiency Act Violations, no weaknesses in internal controls and no non-compliance with laws or regulations. …