Twenty agencies big and small were recently noted for top-notch financial and performance reporting by the Association of Government Accountants.
The “Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting” (CEAR) singles out “high-quality Performance and Accountability Reports (PARs) and Annual Financial Reports (AFRs) that effectively illustrate and assess financial and program performance, accomplishments and challenges, cost and accountability,” the accountants association said in a news release. The association also spotlights the teams of dedicated federal professionals who (often unsung) put the reports together.
“Given the fiscal status of the United States government and the public’s perceptions about government fiscal accountability and transparency, the achievement of this year’s CEAR recipients is even more significant,” AGA Executive Director Relmond Van Daniker said in the release. The agencies being honored “truly represent a select group within the government financial management community.”
Here’s a rundown of the winners:
Architect of the Capitol
Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Housing Finance Agency
Federal Trade Commission
Office of Financial Stability (Treasury Department)
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Housing and Urban Development Department
Government Accountability Office
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Patent and Trademark Office
Securities and Exchange Commission
Small Business Administration
Social Security Administration
Also honored at the May 22 National Press Club ceremony were 10 agencies that showed “specific points of excellence” within their fiscal year 2012 PARs. Known as ‘Best in Class’ awards, the recipients included:
Health and Human Services Department: Best Summary of Management and Performance Challenges by the Inspector General
Labor Department: Most Complete Schedule of Spending
Peace Corps: Most Comprehensive and Candid Presentation of Forward-Looking Information
FTC: Best Agency Head Message
HUD: Best Presentation of a Financial Management Systems Framework
Interior: Best High-Level Discussion of Performance
Capitol Architect: Best Analysis of an Agency’s Financial Statements
FAA: Most Representative of Editorial Excellence
Department of Homeland Security: Best Improper Payment and Recovery Act Reporting
Central Intelligence Agency: Best Introduction
Many are the ways in which the government loses money to contractors, but by failing to answer a survey? That’s essentially what happened at the Housing and Urban Development Department, which cost taxpayers more than $267,000 because some of its managers didn’t bother filling out customer satisfaction questionnaires from tech giant Hewlett-Packard.
Here’s the story, according to the department’s inspector general: Under the terms of a 2005 information technology contract, HP has to ask managers in HUD’s Office of the Chief Information Officer every six months how happy they are with the company’s work. If the survey response rate falls below 50 percent, Hewlett-Packard automatically gets an $89,200 bonus.
Three times in a row–from August 2008 to early last year–HUD missed that target, meaning it had to pay Hewlett-Packard a total of $267,600. Although the CIO’s office sent managers reminder notices, “those notices did not emphasize the responsibility and the impact to HUD of them not responding,” the inspector general wrote in an October report. Because survey participants were not anonymous to Hewlett-Packard, the IG added, managers were not motivated to respond “and may not have been candid in their responses.”
Federal Times obtained a redacted copy of the report under the Freedom of Information Act.
The bonuses, it should be noted, are a pittance in comparison to the contract’s total value, which HUD spokeswoman April Brown pegged at around $404 million. Out of a dozen surveys required so far under the contract, the three highlighted by the IG are the only ones where the response rate dropped below 50 percent, Brown said via email. The department has taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again, she said.
A Hewlett-Packard spokeswoman had no comment.
Asked why HUD would agree to reward a contractor in that fashion, Brown said the provision is in line with commercial terms for “incentive administration.” At the Project on Government Oversight, spokesman Joe Newman couldn’t name another government contract with a similar deal.
For Hewlett-Packard, Newman said, “it’s almost as if there’s an incentive for them not to really gather feedback from the staff.”
The agency is the Housing and Urban Development Department; the newly released Government Accountability Office review finds that HUD officials had a hard time just coming up with a congressionally mandated plan to lay out its IT buying strategy.
That document is required by a spending bill approved last December. Under its terms, HUD can’t obligate more than 25 percent of available money for IT modernization until the House and Senate appropriations committees receive details on key milestones, expected mission benefits and other basics.
But the department’s first try this spring left the GAO underwhelmed. Out of eight projects included in the plan, HUD failed to spell out “specific and measurable benefits” for five, the report says. The plan also did not fully meet conditions that each project be shown to comply with HUD’s enterprise architecture, be subject to lifecycle management policies, and be covered by capital planning and control requirements.
In general, HUD had failed to adequately establish any of the management controls needed for effective IT modernization, according to an earlier GAO briefing attached to the report, in large part because a new IT leadership team had recently been put in place and needed time to introduce a new approach. “Nevertheless, HUD continues to invest in multiple IT modernization projects,” the briefing says, “and may expand on the number of projects in the near term.”
I reported yesterday on the Office of Management and Budget’s plan to review agencies’ progress toward their high-priority performance goals and post that information on the Web.
I spoke with Peter Grace at HUD this morning and he said the site will be called USAperformance.gov and he expects it to be live by July. Shelley Metzenbaum of OMB would only say yesterday that it would be up this summer or this fall, so perhaps July is the goal, but they’re hedging their bets on when it will actually go live.
Right now, the USAperformance.gov URL exists but is password protected.
The new sheriff at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, now has a deputy.
The White House announced yesterday it nominated Ron Sims for the post.
Sims is the county executive of King County, Washington, which includes Seattle. As deputy, he will manage HUDâ€™s day-to-day operations. HUD has a $39 billion operating budget and approximately 8,500 employees.
Donovan called Sims â€œthe perfect deputy secretary candidateâ€ saying:
His experience at the helm of a large urban government provides a critical perspective and his collaborative approach to problem-solving has prepared him to effectively lead HUD’s operations as the agency charts a new aggressive course.
Sims now faces Senate confirmation before he takes the post.
Barack Obamaâ€™s Cabinet is filling up. Last night the Senate confirmed:
- Shaun Donovan to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
- Ray LaHood to be Secretary of Transportation.
In other confirmation news:
- Susan Rice, Obamaâ€™s choice for U.N. ambassador, was approved.
- Nancy Sutley was confirmed as chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
- And finally, Lisa Jackson was given the green light to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, after Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., lifted his objection to a vote by unanimous consent.