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Bureau of the Month:

Finance and Management Policy

Story by Marlene Baxter
The author is a management analyst in FMP.

Photos by Karen Taylor

 
 

An Information assistant conducts inventory.

Information assistant Richard Jackson conducts an inventory.

If you work for the Department of State--as the Secretary or a support staffer--you are a customer of the Bureau of Financial Management and Policy, or FMP. If you are a Foreign Service retiree, FMP serves you. If you are a vendor providing products or services to the Department or any U.S. government entity overseas, FMP serves you, too.

As the Department's central focal point for budget formulation, allocation and execution, FMP processes the Department's payroll and vendor payments domestically and internationally and develops and maintains the Department's financial management systems and policies.

With the enactment of the Chief Financial Officer Act and the appointment of the chief financial officer as its leader, FMP is responsible for developing, overseeing and enhancing the Department's entire financial management infrastructure. In short, FMP supports all Department activities.

FMP Products

Your paycheck or Foreign Service retirement check is an FMP product. Your vendor payment disbursements are FMP products. The Department's annual $6.5 billion budget is an FMP product. The 1998 $1.4 billion Security Supplemental responding to the East Africa bombings is an FMP product.

FMP provides various reports for the Office of Management and Budget, the President and the Congress. During fiscal year 1997, the Department produced its first Accountability Report, consolidating into a single publication information previously mandated by several laws as separate reports. "There are few publications that provide such a succinct and descriptive narrative of all the important foreign affairs programs the Department manages," said Bert T. Edwards, State's chief financial officer and the assistant secretary of the Bureau of Financial Management and Policy. One of only 10 federal agencies to receive this independent assessment of quality, the Department received an unqualified thumbs-up on its fiscal year 1997 financial statements from an outside certified public accounting firm under contract with State's Office of the Inspector General.

Other FMP services include Vendor Express, Employee Express, Annuitant Direct, Travel Manager Plus, the Travel Service Center, the Payroll Service Center and FMP's Financial Service Centers in Charleston, S.C.; Paris and Bangkok.

Official Recognition

Accountant Debra Wilson.

Accountant Debra Wilson takes a break from her work.

FMP employees receive their share of service awards. Teams of FMP employees have won the coveted Hammer Award for two consecutive years. In 1998, FMP employees received this award for saving the U.S. government approximately $740,000 in one year by updating the tools the Department uses to make foreign currency purchases. In 1999, FMP employees teamed with Treasury Department employees to win the Hammer Award for eliminating an antiquated method used government-wide to maintain certain foreign currency fund balances.

In 1997, an FMP employee received the Society of Travel Agents in Government Professional Develop-ment Award for the "Best Government Travel Program." Previous efforts to improve temporary duty travel resulted in $2 million in savings to the Department and $465 million in savings worldwide to the federal government and earned the Association of Government Accountants' Achievement of the Year Award.

Laying Foundations for Excellence

FMP over the past several years has been involved in improving financial management both within the bureau and throughout the Department. Looking inward, FMP has concentrated on cultivating an internal workforce equipped to provide quality customer service in an evolving financial management environment. At the same time, the CFO Act of 1990 requires that FMP also develop financial managers within the Department but outside of FMP. FMP's home bureau concept addresses this requirement.

"The concept of FMP as a home bureau for financial managers strives to give financial management officers a home base for technical assistance, training and career enhancement," said Jacqueline Moyer, FMP's Foreign Service administrative officer. FMP now monitors assignments to ensure that critical financial management positions are filled with qualified candidates. Working with the Bureau of Personnel, FMP has established four financial management positions at the Senior Foreign Service level, creating new promotion potential in the financial management arena.

FMP is committed to equal employment opportunity as it strives to attain a motivated, diverse and flexible financial management workforce qualified to produce quality service. FMP has made commendable progress in the upward movement of women and minorities by creating, upgrading and filling career ladder positions at the entry levels. FMP is also working to upgrade financial positions held by Foreign Service National employees at the three financial service centers.

Retooling

The bureau combines web-site technology with email. Many of the email messages sent from the executive office to FMP staff members domestically and abroad are linked to FMP's web server, a move toward paperless communications without slowing system response time.

One of FMP's high-priority initiatives for almost a decade has been its automation modernization program. FMP has had several waves of PC installations and upgrades. According to Mark Kelley, who oversees 165 allotments in the Office of Domestic Financial Services, standardized spreadsheet software on FMP's network has enhanced the tools he uses to communicate the information he tracks.

Training

Determined to develop a workforce prepared to provide quality service, FMP employees attended 172 vendor-offered and 235 National Foreign Affairs Training Center courses in 1998. The waves of PC installations and upgrades have required continuous technical skills training. In 1998, FMP invested in outside courses, including a lunchtime, on-site accounting course accredited by Northern Virginia Community College. Sixteen bureau employees graduated from this program with 24 semester hours in accounting, finance and business management.

One of the graduates, Donna Lloyd in the Office of Domestic Financial Services, participated in an on-the-job training program of rotational assignments throughout FMP's financial operations. "Being a working mother with minimal discretionary time, going to school in the evenings would have been difficult," Ms. Lloyd said. "So, as opportunities for career advancement training started to become available right here in the workplace, I took advantage of them. Had it not been for these programs, I would currently be without some very necessary skills."

FMP's bottom line is quality customer service--for itself and for the financial management community throughout the Department. Interacting daily with its customers to provide the financial support and products they need, FMP will continue to work behind the scenes to help State manage its finances.

Financial Service Center in Paris.

Chief Financial Officer Bert T. Edwards, front row, second from right, with a cashier training class at the Financial Service Center in Paris.

   

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