Federal CFOs: “We Must Collaborate to Innovate”

Survey of federal executives reveals slow progress as CFOs continue to show fierce resolve in the face of crisis and challenge

ALEXANDRIA, Va.--()--Declining budgets join recruitment and retention of badly-needed talent, and a range of financial management crises that federal Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) list as risks to success according to the 19th annual federal CFO Survey conducted by AGA in partnership with Grant Thornton LLP.

Five major themes emerged from this year’s CFO Survey: risk management, analytics, transparency, shared services and workforce. In all areas, the financial management community has strong opinions. And, though CFOs embrace the intent of efforts to enhance financial management, they may not have the resources needed to address the initiatives they must lead. Consequently, there is a risk that CFOs won’t be able to implement all of the current improvement efforts.

The move of agency financial systems to shared services is now top-of-mind throughout the federal CFO community. This year’s CFO Survey shows greater acceptance of the mandate to accelerate adoption of shared services. CFOs are also focused on value-added efforts such as providing better data to managers and reducing improper payments, and they seek proven solutions that shared service providers can more easily provide.

“It’s encouraging that CFOs embrace the continual expansion of transparency expectations,” stated AGA Chief Executive Office, Ann M. Ebberts. “They agree shared services and the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) will help agencies improve operations and performance. A positive tone-at-the-top remains vital to the success of federal agency transparency efforts.”

Yet, CFOs are worried about recruiting and/or maintaining a capable staff. Workforce management is a worsening challenge due to a number of factors, including: increased retirements among an aging workforce, budget uncertainty and a climate of not respecting the role of federal employees. Improving federal workforce management remains a major focus of CFOs.

CFOs have deep experience in the federal environment and are highly skilled at managing agencies’ finances and reporting. “The role of the CFO continues to evolve; working together, CFOs can find what works more quickly and accelerate progress addressing their common challenges,” said Jim Taylor, Managing Director, Grant Thornton LLP. “More important, they won’t waste precious resources on activities that don’t add value or address the most pressing risks to their mission.”

Solving the challenges of today’s federal CFO will require the whole of the government’s financial management enterprise — including Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), financial management staff and contractors, and the CFOs themselves — working together to find lasting solutions to these challenges.

Online and in-person survey instruments that included closed and open-ended questions were utilized to conduct this study. Non-random, in-person interviews were conducted with 65 U.S. federal financial leaders and senior leaders of oversight groups such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the OMB. Approximately half of those interviewees had job titles of CFO or Deputy CFO; others were direct reports or other financial executives. Self-selected online interviews with 284 AGA members were also conducted.

About AGA

AGA is the member organization for financial professionals in government. We lead and encourage change that benefits our field and all citizens. Our networking events, professional certification, publications and ongoing education help members build their skills and advance their careers.

About Grant Thornton’s Global Public Sector

Grant Thornton’s Global Public Sector practice helps government executives maximize performance and efficiency in the face of tightening budgets and increased demand for services. The Public Sector practice offers clients creative, cost-effective solutions that enhance acquisition, financial, human capital, information technology, and performance management. Through our 54 offices in 30 states, including 13 state capitals, we provide the full complement of audit and advisory services to state and local governments. Our clients include large state agencies, city governments, lotteries, and governance organizations.

Contacts

Association of Government Accountants (AGA)
Jennifer I. Curtin, MPA, 410-430-1785
jcurtin@agacgfm.org
or
Robert Shea, 703-637-2780
robert.shea@us.gt.com

Release Summary

An AGA/Grant Thornton survey of federal executives reveals slow progress as CFOs continue to show fierce resolve in the face of crisis and challenge.

Contacts

Association of Government Accountants (AGA)
Jennifer I. Curtin, MPA, 410-430-1785
jcurtin@agacgfm.org
or
Robert Shea, 703-637-2780
robert.shea@us.gt.com