Budgetary uncertainty is the number one challenge to the financial management community, followed by personnel issues and IT issues, according to the latest annual survey by the Association of Government Accountants.

“Looking at prior surveys, it’s clear the CFO community has made significant progress on many of the issues plaguing the government and, for the most part, has successfully built the infrastructure needed to achieve clean audits and provide required financial reports. However, CFOs continue to struggle with some persistent issues from the past, including improper payments, obsolete and inefficient systems, and attracting and retaining skilled staff,” says the report, done in partnership with the GrantThornton consulting firm.

It summarized the personnel challenge as having staff “with the skills needed to analyze all data now available to the CFO community. Given the hiring freeze still in place in many federal agencies, CFOs will be challenged to obtain the skillsets needed to make progress in delivering to the agency the data and information needed to make evidence based, informed decisions and manage risk.”

Along with unfinished budgets, there is uncertainty regarding the direction of the current administration’s program, especially given the large number of politically appointive positions that remain unfilled, it said. On the positive side, it added, those continuing vacancies present an opportunity for career employees in the financial field to take initiative and apply the approaches that their experience suggests should be used.

Further, under one initiative that the administration has made clear, an emphasis on streamlining and efficiency improvement, “career financial managers have the ability to propose cutting out redundancies and inefficiencies across government. How they respond to this environment will be a key indicator as to how the community is viewed among the leaders of the executive branch for years to come.”