Task force recommends crackdown on CFC management

Wednesday - 5/30/2012, 12:19pm EDT

Ruben Gomez, reporter, Federal News Radio

Download mp3

A special task force working for the CFC-50 Commission drafted preliminary recommendations for preventing waste by groups that administer the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).

The recommendations follow a March 14 Office of Personnel Management inspector general report that found more than $700,000 in questionable spending by Principal Combined Fund Organizations (PCFOs) that administer local campaigns under the direction and control of Local Federal Coordinating Committees (LFCCs).

OPM is the CFC parent agency.

Reduce training costs

To start, the working group recommended CFC management take steps to reduce training costs. That includes using government buildings for training events whenever possible, or at least avoiding high cost metro areas, such as downtown Washington, D.C.

In addition, the group recommended the OPM require PFCOs to submit competitive bid proposals for training venues.

"The purpose of that recommendation is, with competitive bidding, we are hopefully going to get the better price on the training events," said task force member Ana Urrechaga at a CFC-50 Commission meeting Tuesday.

Spend less on appreciation events

A second recommendation called on PCFOs to reduce the cost of appreciation events, such as award ceremonies. To that end, the task force wanted to ensure that any gifts to federal employees abide with ethics rules.

"The Office of Combined Federal Campaign needs to be clear that the amount of the award cannot exceed gift restrictions for government federal employees," said Shannon Hamm, a task force member. Under those rules, the value of gifts cannot exceed $20.

Also to reduce the cost of appreciation events, the task force suggested changing CFC regulations to reflect a ban that prevents PCFOs from spending campaign funds on meals, beverages and entertainment. OPM Director John Berry issued the restrictions, after the IG reported the organizations overcharged the campaign for expenses by $268,739.

The IG questioned, among other things, spending on a Washington by Night Tour for $1,159; a private box, group tickets and mascot visit for a Washington Nationals baseball game for $11,315; a jazz band that played at a leadership conference for $1,500; and chair massages performed by an outside contractor at a Wellness Fair for $280.

"We're codifying [Berry's restrictions] because, as we know, memos and directives get lost over time," Hamm said.

But not everyone received the proposed rules warmly.

"Light refreshments at our kickoff at awards events are important," said Xavier "Lew" Lewis of the Heart of Alabama PCFO. "If we codify this language as it stands, we will not be able even to go out and find sponsors for these events."

The commission noted Lewis' concern but did not immediately promise revisions to the recommendation.

Improve oversight of software acquisition and development

While the first set of recommendations attempted to address training costs and questionable spending at appreciation events, the working group also suggested a focus on improving overall oversight of the CFC campaign.

With that goal in mind, task force recommended OPM take new steps to reduce the possibility of waste in software acquisition and development. The March IG report questioned $372,500 in costs related to software applications and licensing agreements for systems owned by Global Impact, a PCFO for the National Capital Area.

"Each campaign can have a set of applications and computer equipment that, taken in the aggregate, could be very, very costly for the campaign," said CFC Director Keith Willingham. "And so we want to put in a mechanism that gives OPM and the LFCCs an opportunity to evaluate that at a [closer level]."

Also with the goal of improving overall oversight, the task force recommended OPM contract with organizations that could help implement the CFC-50 Commission's goal to consolidate accounting functions, including cash receipts and disbursements.

The task force also recommended OPM explore whether LFCCs should enter into contracts with PCFOs. Currently, the two sides operate under memoranda of understanding.

"The takeaway there was that a contract would give a little bit more teeth to overall oversight if a contract was in place versus an MOU," Willingham said.

The CFC-50 commission drafted its preliminary report for improving CFC operations, Willingham said. He hoped to release the final report within 45 days.

RELATED STORIES:

Berry: OPM did not authorize CFC meals, entertainment expenses