Chief of the Year: Finance

On June 15, Government Executive is featuring the government's chief officers of finance, human capital, information and information security in a special issue of the magazine. This year, for the second time, we've identified individuals to highlight as Chiefs of the Year. In challenging times, these individuals are leading the way in coming up with innovative solutions, providing a shining example to their peers.

Jim Taylor
Chief Financial Officer
Labor Department

For chief financial officers, a clean audit is the Holy Grail, or the cherry on the sundae, depending on your perspective. The Labor Department received unqualified opinions for a dozen years-until fiscal 2010, which happened to be the year Jim Taylor became CFO. "We ran out of time," says Taylor, who sacrificed the clean audit in order to stand up a new financial management system that is cheaper and more efficient than any of its predecessors. Labor is the first Cabinet agency to move its entire suite of financial applications to the cloud. "We have lots of folks watching us," he says.

The financial chief has spent three decades in the government and has a resume ready-made for tackling complicated projects. Before arriving at Labor in June 2010, Taylor was deputy inspector general at the Homeland Security Department, where he helped manage a team of more than 600 auditors, inspectors and investigators. From 1999 to 2005, he was deputy chief financial officer at the Commerce Department, where he implemented the department's first integrated financial management system and earned its first clean audit opinion. Taylor also helped transform the financial management system as deputy CFO at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which also earned the agency's first clean audit. "I've probably testified [in front of Congress] more than three dozen times," he says.

In December 2010, Taylor testified about the disclaimer Labor received on its fiscal 2010 financial statement-an unfortunate consequence of the time, energy and resources he and his staff had to put into ensuring the department's new financial management system was error-free and up to task. "The fact that agencies have experienced similar problems when replacing older systems, and also lost their clean audit opinions, does not make this experience any less disappointing," Taylor told the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Taylor resubmitted the department's fiscal 2010 statements, and in May, KPMG gave Labor an unqualified opinion with the caveat that material weaknesses remain.

While he doesn't underestimate the importance of a clean audit, Taylor also believes he made the right choice to focus on ironing out the challenges involved in implementing Labor's new financial system. "A clean opinion is just a measure of whether the information can be relied on," he says. And what's sound fiscal data without the foundation of a reliable financial management system?

Chiefs of the Year 2011 main page Hear from Jim Taylor and the other Chiefs of the Year at Government Executive's June 15 briefing in Washington, D.C. Click here to register.
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