ARRA Stimulus Spending Reporting Solutions
As part of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), state and local governments have gratefully received stimulus money, which economists and lawmakers hope will breath some life into the economy. Budget officials, however, are anxious about the impending October 10th date, which is the first quarterly mandated deadline from the the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). On that date, stimulus fund recipients must upload their detailed financial spending information in a specific format to a website called FederalReporting.gov,
CIO’s around the country are concerned about the challenges of reporting for stimulus spending. Agencies will be required to upload financial spending data in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, CSV, or Extensible Markup Language (XML). These OMB requirements put the burden directly on state and local governments to process, format, prepare and transmit large amounts of financial information. Many CIO’s say that their existing computer systems simply have not been adapted to handle these requirements. They are now faced with a choice that they need to make: a) customize their computer systems and applications to try and meet the requirement or b) purchase a software solution that has been designed to track and report stimulus spending.
President Barack Obama’s administration and the OMB instituted these very stringent reporting requirements to provide transparency as well as spending accountability. This is certainly a worthy and worthwhile goal but it can be an enormous undertaken for CIO’s and their IT teams. They only have a small window of time to modify and enhance their applications to meet the requirements. The problem also becomes exponentially more complex, when you start factoring in that state and local governments have many different agencies, who are using many different systems to capture and track their financial information.
There is some good news, CIO’s have some third-party options they can consider. Microsoft Stimulus360, for example, is a solution that works with the existing Microsoft applications that most government agencies are using today including: Microsoft Office, Microsoft Dynamics ERP, Windows Server, SharePoint and Microsoft SQL Server. The only real additional cost is the product licensing fee.
Acumen Solutions’ START program, on the other hand, takes a completely different approach. The solution is built on top of Salesforce.com platform. This completely hosted option can reduce equipment and software purchase costs. START offers an advantages when the government agencies are not connected on the same area network. As a “cloud” based solution, anyone with an Internet connection and a browser, can easily access the application 24/7. Acumen Solutions’ START regularly receives updates from OMB, so that state and local governments can just focus on populating the system with their data.
Both of these solutions are viable options for CIO’s to consider. They offer all the necessary reporting and data transmission requirements for OMB, and present a compelling alternative to building, managing and maintaining their own in-house developed applications for ARRA.