ARCHIVED INFORMATION -- Fiscal Year 1996 Annual Accountability Report

Financial Improvement Initiatives

The Department is committed to improving financial performance and has taken several significant steps to ensure that funds are spent effectively and efficiently. This section highlights improvement initiatives and actual performance to date. These activities include integrating our financial systems, cash management and electronic commerce.

Education's Central Automated Processing System
The Department is investing in tighter, more efficient management of tax dollars by upgrading its financial management systems and automating manual procedures. This major investment in Education's Central Automated Processing System (EDCAPS) will replace three major financial systems and numerous supporting systems with a fully-integrated financial management system. EDCAPS will contribute to the Department's ability to serve customers by providing timely responses to customer inquiries, empowering employees to make informed decisions by increasing their access to data and increasing accountability through improved financial management. EDCAPS will implement three primary business processing modules, each with a similar "look and feel" and all accessible under the same EDCAPS group of business process activities. All modules will manage information from a common relational database and use state of the industry reporting tools for quick, easy access to information. The improved data integrity and reporting capabilities will be a breakthrough for the Department's recipients in their participation in federal education programs and for the Department's managers who will have accurate information when they need it.

Fiscal year 1996 was a key period in the development of EDCAPS. The procurement of commercial off-the-shelf software packages in the previous year became the springboard for testing and enhancing the Financial Management System Software and Contracts and Purchasing Support System in fiscal year 1996. The Grants Administration and Payments System's (GAPS) functional requirements were developed by focus groups who provided tremendous insight to the project. Their efforts produced draft screen layouts supporting the functionality required of the GAPS module.

In addition to developing the three primary modules of EDCAPS, significant strides were taken to bring the Department of Education's staff and all EDCAPS external customers up to speed on the new system. These communication efforts provided many of the Department's recipients, staff and contractors with an understanding of the purpose of the new system and what it will mean to them. Staff and grant recipients alike were delighted that EDCAPS will reduce the paper burden, increase accountability and the speed of business information management. Training plans were developed and training was initiated to support the early phases of EDCAPS implementation. "Just-In-Time" training is being provided to reduce time between training and system use, thus maximizing the training benefit.

Cash Management Improvement Activities
States are charged interest on excess federal funds held in their private bank accounts. States also submit reimbursement claims for interest owed them because the Department was late in sending funds, thereby requiring the States to use their own funds. For fiscal year 1996, the States' liabilities from interest earned on excess Education funds were $5.3 million while they claimed interest of only $0.5 million being owed by the Department. Hence, due to the Department's prompt delivery of funds to States, the Federal Treasury was entitled to receive over $4.8 million.

Electronic Commerce
The Department of Education is committed to electronic commerce and other technological advances and continues to automate by using the latest technology to send out requests and award contracts. Savings of 10 percent per order have been achieved through access to a much larger selection of vendors. The Department recently developed an accounting interface link that will assure effective processing until the conversion to EDCAPS.

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