CDC's Financial Management Office Assessment Report
“Great science is what we do;
great management is how we support great science.”
Recently a draft, internal assessment of the Financial Management Office (FMO) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was covered in the media. As part of the President's Management Agenda, CDC has aggressively worked to improve areas in:
- procurement and grants,
- information technology,
- financial management, and
- other business services.
In July 2006 the draft, internal report was completed and shared with financial management staff and various agency senior managers to determine if an improvement effort was warranted.
This assessment of the Financial Management Office is to help increase effectiveness, improve customer service and prepare the office for the future. The FMO Business Process Improvement Executive Steering Committee and the CDC Management Council (an agency-wide group of top managers) endorsed the assessment's recommendations for follow-up actions.
Why was the outside assessment commissioned?
Four reasons: 1) accountability is a core value of CDC and true to this value we must work to continuously identify areas for improvement; good managers find problems and fix them; 2) FMO had just completed implementing a 4-year $60 million new Unified Financial Management System and it was time to assess the opportunities provided by this new system, address some residual challenges from the system implementation and look more broadly across FMO for improvements; 3) FMO had also recently completed a consolidation of budget execution services across all of CDC and a review of the quality of those services was deemed to be valuable; and, 4) a similar assessment was undertaken in Procurement and Grants (PGO), another area of CDC's business services, and the CDC Management Council determined that a similar assessment for FMO would be beneficial.
What was the intent of the assessment?
The assessment was conducted to identify needs, challenges, and gaps through a comprehensive engagement with FMO staff and customers, and to begin to address unmet program needs and areas of opportunity across the spectrum of FMO services.
Was the draft report overly critical?
The assessment took a critical look at FMO in its entirety. The intent of the assessment was to identify limitations, service needs not currently being fulfilled, and areas for improvement. However, the assessment did not focus on the many aspects of FMO that are clearly operating well or on the numerous successes FMO has recently achieved.
Despite its limitations, what has FMO accomplished?
FMO has had many successes in recent years, including 1) the implementation of the new financial management system, 2) the consolidation of approximately 150 budget execution staff across CDC, 3) the complete restructuring of CDC's Congressionally appropriated budget, and, 4) the alignment of the new CDC organization with the financial system. All of this happened while FMO provided fiscal stewardship over a $10-billion dollar agency budget and earned "green lights" in the President's Management Agenda for financial performance.
What about the high performance awards for FMO managers in light of this draft report?
The leadership in FMO have been recognized for the many high-impact successes achieved in the last few years and their trail blazing efforts such as being first to implement the $60 million dollar Unified Financial Management System. This same leadership also assisted the Department of Health and Human Services on this effort Department-wide. In addition, for the last six years, CDC's FMO has had six "clean" audit opinions from outside accounting firms as mandated by Congress. The assessment has identified areas needing improvement but this does not diminish the great strides and successes of the FMO leadership in many other areas.
Is management overtaking science at CDC?
Science is the very heart of CDC and managers at CDC know that. In fact they know it so completely that through their focus on business service improvement and efficiency, they were able to help convert more than 700 full-time positions from mission support to mission direct positions. In the course of improving management systems at CDC, it's natural for our scientists and researchers to feel imposed upon. Science is our mission and our science must be impeccable to stand up to peer review— and so must our management activities if we are to maintain the public's trust. Great science is what we do; great management is how we support great science.
What have been some of the improvements begun since July?
The project to implement the recommended improvements has only recently been launched with the creation of workgroups comprised of staff from across CDC to ensure comprehensive FMO and customer interactions and perspectives. Significant accomplishments are expected by early 2007.