Amid declining employee morale and squeezed budgets, federal financial executives are struggling to do their job fully and many fear they won’t be able to meet growing demands, according to a new survey.
Almost one-third of financial executives interviewed for the Association of Government Accountants’ federal CFO survey said the services they provide are at risk due to increasing requirements and declining resources.
“Most challenges about providing services are just what you would expect from dedicated public servants,” the report stated. “They are trying to figure out how to do their jobs and accomplish agency mission with less funding and fewer people.”
As one CFO quoted in the report summed it up: “Expectations are going up while resources are going down.”
Conducted in partnership with Grant Thornton LLP, AGA’s annual survey compiled responses from interviews with more than 100 U.S. federal financial leaders and senior leaders of oversight groups. Roughly half of the respondents were CFOs or deputy CFOs; others were direct reports or other financial executives. Almost 200 other federal financial leaders participated in an online survey.
Personnel, budget and technology were other pressing challenges among chief financial officers interviewed for the survey.
Personnel challenges include hiring with less funding, difficulty in finding candidates willing to work without pay raises, and motivating the workforce through tough times. “The workforce is hollowing quickly,” as one CFO put it.
When it comes to budget issues, CFOs cite declining funding and scarce resources as major obstacles.
“There is much uncertainty associated with the budget: When will the agency receive its funding? How much funding will the agency receive?” the report noted.
New financial systems often pose technological challenges, but CFOs also mentioned shared services and the need for data analytics to manage the information deluge. Those commenting on the online survey said technology challenges entail outdated systems, the need for new systems and upgrades and data management.
“We have all this data, but we are not doing the analysis to move forward,” according to one CFO.
Long-term technology roadblocks include data standardization, cybersecurity and the need to better leverage technology to compensate for fewer employees. For online respondents, worries down the road include maintaining legacy systems, security and adopting software to replace nonexistent staff.