Interview

Integrated Government Financial Management : Adaire Fox-Martin, Vice President of the Public Services group for SAP

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Adaire Fox-Martin, Vice President of the Public Services group for SAPAs Vice President of the Public Services group for SAP’s Asia Pacific Division, Adaire Fox-Martin oversees the strategic direction and activities in the area of public services in the health, education and defence sectors across the region and executive relationships with customers and partners. Ms. Fox-Martin is a key member of the SAP leadership team and plays a lead role in delivering SAP’s offering to public secto­r customers. A respected thought leader, Ms. Fox-Martin continues to be invited at seminars and conferences by the media and analysts to address public services issues ranging from e-Government transformation and reengineering of Government processes to public service policies. She is regularly featured and quoted in numerous publications throughout Asia and Australia. Ms. Fox-Martin has over 20 years of experience in the field of information technology and management.

Effective e-Governance can take information technology (IT) to the common man, while helping Governments to regulate their services in line with the changing needs of both citizens and stakeholders, as well as develop the economy. Recognizing the growing importance of e-Governance and the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in public administration, we bring you a much needed, regular, interactive platform, where your questions on a pre-defined theme can be answered by Adaire Fox-Martin, Vice President, Public Services, SAP Asia Pacific and Japan.

In this issue, we focus on questions around “Integrated Government Financial Management System (IGFMS)” in the backdrop of the critical role that Government has to perform with respect to balancing their budgets and expenditures under the continued pressure of targets for growth, development and social welfare, particularly under the recessionary trends that the globe is faced with. Governments will ignore prudent and effective financial management at their own peril. And to support it, is the vital need for integrated ICT for financial management.


 

We have heard of integrated financial management systems for companies and corporations. How is it relevant for Government?

It is not very apparent but governments at all levels (Central, State, Local) perform very detailed exercises on economic planning, budgeting, expenditure management, revenue management, paybill processing, grant management, and loans and investments. Hitherto, either these have been manual exercises or at best supported by islands and silos of IT systems. Instances of these can be found across various Treasuries, Pay & Account Offices, DDOs and Departmental systems. Integrated Financial Management Systems specifically meant for Government could be leveraged in a big way to provide efficiency and effectiveness in this process.

Could you provide an example and explain how this works?

Let us look at the Financial Management for State Government. The finance department performs the planning and budgeting process with all the other departments in an iterative process. Budgets are frozen and then released from time to time. The Treasuries need to perform funds check and pass bills drawn by DDOs and then draw checks and send back to DDOs or pay vendors. Subsequently, there needs to be a reconciliation process. The AG then takes the vouchers and prepares the financial statements of the State. This process is fairly standardized but still continues to be handled in a fragmented way from ICT perspective. IGFMS unifies the entire process and allows collaboration to all stakeholders in this process through a common system and seamless integration.

Where have IGFM Systems been implemented? What is the scope for this in India?

IGFMS has been implemented across the globe, both in developed and developing countries. Canada, US, Germany, Austria, France, UK, Australia, Singapore and several other countries run IGFMS both at the Federal and Provincial level. Countries like Israel (Merkava Project), Malaysia, South Africa and others have also implemented IGFMS. There are several implementations of IGFMS at the city level also and some prime examples include City of Cape Town, Paris, Toronto, Auckland, Birmingham and Ottawa. In India, various Governments, particularly at the State and City levels have evinced a lot of interest in such systems and it is imperative that they evaluate such systems keenly so that they can reap the benefits of such off-the-shelf, best-practices, made-for-government systems at the earliest.

Are these systems cost-effective compared to the current alternatives that the government agencies have?

In the long run, the off-the-shelf IGFMS are far more cost-effective compared to custom built software. In fact, they have been shown to have far better ROI over a period of 5-7 years of implementation. The agencies get enormous flexibility to accommodate any changes (without writing and re-writing codes) over a period of time and they are totally protected from obsolescence in technology over a long period of time. Time to implement and use is much faster and it incorporates the best-practices developed over a long period of time based on collective knowledge of agencies globally.

Where can I get more information about IGFMS and how can I engage with the solution provider for evaluating such systems?

Information about implementation of IGFMS is largely available on websites and can also be seen at websites of solution providers, SAP being one of the prominent ones. The discussions and engagement can be had with the solution provider directly or with any of the major system integrator and implementation partner of such providers. Of course, you can always send your queries and interest to the email provided herein.

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