Chief financial officers to rank nominees for SAVE award

New guidance to agency financial chiefs for implementing the Obama administration's Campaign to Cut Government Waste includes assigning them a role in ranking nominations for the Securing Americans Value and Efficiency Award.

In a June 28 memo to chief financial officers, Controller Danny Werfel directed that chief financial officers "review and rank submissions for improvements within your agency made by federal employees for the president's 2011 SAVE award."

Within the next two months, the Office of Management and Budget will provide agencies with a list of 2011 SAVE award submissions that relate to programs under their purview, he said.

"This list will maintain the anonymous nature of the SAVE award process," the memo said. "CFOs should respond to the appropriate OMB resource management office by providing a list that ranks these submissions. Submissions should be reviewed and ranked for their ability to reduce costs in a concrete and quantifiable way, as well as their ability to improve the way the government operates by improving quality of output, simplifying processes, or increasing the speed of government operations."

Launched in 2009, the SAVE awards are intended "to make sure that we are getting the best ideas from everywhere we can," as Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients and Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew put it in a recent memo.

"Over the past two years, more than 56,000 cost-cutting ideas have been submitted to OMB for review," they wrote. "These suggestions help agencies identify areas for cutting and improvement, and approximately 40 of them have been included in the president's budget. In the upcoming fiscal year, the SAVE award will help agencies meet the president's desire to cut more than $2 billion from administrative expenses such as travel, printing, supplies and advisory contract services."

The 2010 winner,Trudy Givens of the Bureau of Prisons stationed in Portage, Wis., suggested ceasing hard copy printing of more than 8,000 copies of the Federal Register. The 2009 winner, Nancy Fichtner of the Veterans Affairs Department stationed in Colorado, suggested that unused hospital medications such as ointments, inhalers and eye drops, be donated to the needy rather than thrown away.

The SAVE award raises issues for Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association. Her organization gives out annual Presidential Distinguished Rank Awards to about 60 federal stars who in 2010 cumulatively saved the government a "documented $34 billion," she said. Unlike the SAVE awards, the Rank awards come with cash.

The Obama administration two years ago decided to discontinue posting the winners on the website of the Office of Personnel Management, Bonosaro said, leaving unanswered, "how do we square their obvious interest in achieving savings with giving adequate public recognition to those who do it?"

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