Just a year after the White House launched its Campaign to Cut Waste, led by Vice President Joe Biden, federal chief financial officers express some worry that investment in the centralized effort may not pay off because it isn’t aligned with agency missions.
A survey of 300 CFOs and their workforces released Monday by the Association of Government Accountants and Grant Thornton LLP showed that 69 percent of respondents said their agencies had begun looking for ways to curb spending and economize, while 31 percent said they had not. Some 45 percent said they had gotten good results, while 19 had just started implementation.
“Many CFOs view the president’s Campaign to Cut Waste as fairly typical of a new administration,” the survey analysts wrote. “Every president has certain things that he wants to accomplish, and the campaign emphasizes making agencies accountable for the use of taxpayer dollars rather than reducing the deficit. The CFOs are concerned that the requirements of the campaign sometimes divert resources that could have been better deployed elsewhere. Moreover, CFOs contend the campaign did not strategically advance the mission of the agency and so offers little return on investment, but they nonetheless endeavored to implement the campaign in a professional manner.”
Rank-and-file workers surveyed expressed similar views, though they reported less involvement.
The survey highlighted the central role CFOs play during tough budget times, reporting, for example, a high participation rate in setting the agency’s primary goals as called for under the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act. Some 71 percent of CFOs interviewed and 69 percent responding online said they were involved in goal setting.
But most of the analysis dealt with the impact of budget cuts exacerbated by the weak global economy. “It is a vicious [cycle], as budget cuts drive staff cuts, which impact performance,” the analysis stated. “While every government executive bears some responsibility for the government’s response, CFOs have a leading role because they are functionally responsible for budgeting and performance management. Continuing budget cuts, pay freezes, late appropriations, the specter of sequester, trillion-dollar deficits, and public denigration of civil servants by the media and their elected representatives make the CFO’s job a difficult one.”
Srikant Sastry, managing partner of Grant Thornton’s Global Public Sector, said, “federal agencies may have less funding available to them, but they are getting no relief from the need to provide high-quality services for the American people.”