The Business of Government Hour

 

About the show

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Angela Antonelli

Friday, January 31st, 2003 - 20:00
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Angela Antonelli
Radio show date: 
Sat, 02/01/2003
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Intro text: 
Financial Management Managing for Performance and Results...

Financial Management Managing for Performance and Results

Complete transcript: 

Friday, November 15, 2002

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, the co-chairman of The IBM Endowment for The Business of Government. We created The Endowment in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about The Endowment by visiting us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation this morning is with Angela Antonelli. Angela is the chief financial officer at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Good morning, Angela.

Ms. Antonelli: Good morning. How are you?

Mr. Lawrence: Great, thanks. And joining us in our conversation is Greg Greben.

Good morning, Greg.

Mr. Greben: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Angela, let's start by talking about HUD. Could you give us an overview of its missions and activities?

Ms. Antonelli: Sure. I'd be happy to. HUD's mission is to increase home ownership, support community development, and expand access to affordable housing free from discrimination. Now, what exactly do we do to support this mission? HUD is a financial institution comparable to a Fortune 100 company, with a $32 billion budget and more than 10,000 employees. We serve more than 4.8 million citizens through our public and assisted housing programs.

Through the Federal Housing Administration, better known by many as FHA, we manage a half a trillion dollar portfolio of insured mortgages, making HUD one of the federal government's primary agencies supporting home ownership. HUD also is a major source of federal dollars for community development efforts, providing funds to more than 1,000 state and local governments.

In addition, HUD also has several programs to help state and local communities address the needs of their homeless population. And the Department is a primary enforcer of housing anti-discrimination laws.

Mr. Greben: Angela, can you tell us about the office of the chief financial officer? How many employees work in the office and what types of skills do they have?

Ms. Antonelli: Sure. The office of the chief financial officer has a staff of a little over 200 people. We have many different functions that we perform that are in support of the Department's mission and the programs that we deliver. The areas that we're responsible for include budget development and execution. Obviously, there's a lot of focus now on budget and performance integration, so part of all of that exercise includes performance measurement and the integration of performance measures with our budget and the budget decisions we make -- how we're going to spend our money.

We also have all the accounting functions, transactions, for the Department. We maintain the Department's financial systems. A large part of that is our core accounting system. We have the travel management function within the Department. That includes management of travel cards -- travel purchases, in another term, within the Department.

I maintain the working capital fund, which funds all information technology within the Department. So there's a wide range of activities. We also have financial management within the office of the chief financial officer and the responsibilities within financial management. That role within the office of the chief financial officer for me is really an oversight role. We do all of our interactions with the General Accounting Office's audit functions, audits performed by the General Accounting Office, and the audits that are performed by our inspector general of our programs.

We also interact a lot with OMB. And our financial management division, as well as our budget division, play a key role in our interactions with the Office of Management and Budget. But basically, the audit functions within the Department are coordinated through my financial management division.

Mr. Lawrence: Another 200 people. From that description, it sounds like they're all accountants deeply trained in financial management-type skills?

Ms. Antonelli: A lot of my staff, probably about half of my staff are accountants. But we also obviously have budget analysts and management analysts that perform some of the other functions that I mentioned.

But obviously, the accounting and systems functions are an extremely important part of what we do at the office of the chief financial officer. So I do have a large part of my staff as accountants. I have a Fort Worth office, with a director based out in Fort Worth that has about 60 accountants that are based out there. So a lot of the Department's transactions are processed through my Fort Worth accounting center.

Mr. Lawrence: And what are your responsibilities as a CFO?

Ms. Antonelli: Basically, to address many of the issues that I just described that my staff handles, and to really be the leader in carrying out those functions. So I really love the CFO's portfolio at the Department, because I really think it's very well-integrated, because I think that in some other departments, CFOs don't necessarily have the budget function. But I think integrating budget with finance is extremely important. And to have those two functions together I think works particularly well.

So my responsibilities include, again, budget development and execution on behalf of the Department, making sure that the President's and Secretary's priorities are reflecting in that. And then also, from a financial management perspective, when it comes to budget execution and management of the dollars, making sure that those dollars are managed well.

Mr. Lawrence: You said something interesting. You said you were the leader. What does that mean in that context? How much of your time is doing the work, watching the work? How would you describe your activities?

Ms. Antonelli: Well, I think all of my time. A hundred percent of my time is the CFO leading my staff, which I think I have a fantastic staff, and executing those responsibilities. I see my role as very much making sure that my staff, but also the staff throughout the Department that are responsible for financing and for budgeting, have the tools that they need in order to execute their responsibilities, and to do it to the best of their ability.

So I work very closely with them, and make sure that I can help facilitate getting the work done and making sure that it's done well. And making sure that problems, particularly longstanding problems, we develop a plan of action for addressing those. And again, we bring the necessary resources -- whether it be staff, whether it be dollars -- to bear to address those problems.

Mr. Greben: Can you tell us about your government career prior to HUD?

Ms. Antonelli: My government career prior to HUD.

Mr. Greben: Or your whole career.

Ms. Antonelli: I basically went to Cornell University. That's where I received my bachelor's degree. And from Cornell, I went to Princeton University, where I received a master's in public affairs. After I completed my graduate degree, I came to Washington. My career in public policy already sort of being decided at that point -- a longstanding interest and love on my part, public service.

Came to Washington, started out as a Presidential Management Intern with the U.S. General Accounting Office. I had done several rotations. The PMI program -- again, the Presidential Management Intern program, which I think many people are familiar with, is a 2-year program. Ended my service in the PMI program at the Office of Management and Budget.

I served in the Office of Management and Budget as an analyst, a regulatory analyst and then a deputy branch chief through 1993. I had left OMB in 1993, went to work in a consulting firm, served there for 2 years. From there, went to the Heritage Foundation, which is a public policy think-tank. And from 1995 until my appointment was the director for economic policy at the Heritage Foundation.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, when you came out of Princeton, did you know you were going to end up in the financial part of public administration?

Ms. Antonelli: To me, it's a component of what I do. I had always been interested in public policy budgeting, being a part of that -- economic policy. So for me, this has always been an area that I've been very, very interested in and I think is absolutely critical.

I mean, for me, the chief financial officer's job, and the responsibilities that are tied to that in terms of budgeting and finance, are so critical to the ability of a department to execute its mission and to do that well. And so for me, there's probably no better way ultimately to influence public policy, and ultimately to make sure that programs are executed efficiently and effectively and the taxpayers' dollars are well spent than through carrying out the responsibilities that are reflected in the position of CFO.

Mr. Greben: Your experience includes positions in private and non-profit sectors as well as federal and state government. What are some of the differences that you've observed between these sectors?

Ms. Antonelli: The fact that I have spent time at the federal level, the state level, in the non-profit sector and the private sector is, on my part, designed. I really wanted to get the different perspectives from serving it in all of these different levels of government, and then also in the private sector.

And there certainly are differences. Coming back into the federal government as the CFO, having entered government and having entered public service in Washington at the federal level, I was reacquainted with some of the challenges within the federal government that are perhaps a little bit easier to accomplish in the private sector. And those are areas, for example, like human capital; being able to hire and retain staff. Another area that's a challenge is the area of procuring services, and the lengthy process and complexities of the rules and regulations in order to procure services.

So human capital, procurement are probably two areas that I see as perhaps being more challenging being in the government as opposed to the private sector. And it does have an impact on the ability to move as quickly I think as one would like sometimes to address problems.

Mr. Lawrence: Did you find yourself in the different sectors using different management skills?

Ms. Antonelli: When it comes to management of staff, I think it makes no difference. I think as a good manager, you don't necessarily have to be expert in every single thing that your people cover and address. What you need to understand is how to, again, serve as a leader in making sure that you can provide a vision, and then make sure that your people have the tools and the resources and the guidance in order to be able to execute their roles and responsibilities.

And to encourage people. The recruitment of good staff, the retaining of good staff. These are all things -- people are so important, whether it's the private sector or in government, to getting the job done, wherever you might be. And as I always say to my folks: without people, nothing can happen. And it's really the ability to attract and retain and mentor good staff. And in the case, in the financial management area, I think in government it's particularly challenging to be able to attract that staff and retain them. But give them the tools that they need to be able to do the job well. And again, I don't think it makes any difference whether it's government or the private sector.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, that's a good stopping point. Come back with us after the break as we continue our conversation about management with Angela Antonelli of HUD.

How does one earn a green for financial management on the OMB scorecard? We'll ask Angela when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and today's conversation is with Angela Antonelli. Angela is the chief financial officer of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And joining us in our conversation is Greg Greben.

Mr. Greben: What are the steps HUD is taking to earn a green on the OMB scorecard in the area of financial management?

Ms. Antonelli: Well, there's many different areas that are priorities for us in the area of financial management. Obviously, our accounting systems, our financial systems are extremely important, and continuing to upgrade those systems and improve those systems, and have our financial systems within the Department interface effectively. So improving our financial systems are important.

Another area, for example, is improving our funds control policies and procedures to really make sure that we're able to track our expenditures very carefully and make sure that we stay within the appropriated amounts. That's been an area of concern for us more recently.

So financial systems, funds control-- obviously getting a clean audit. The acceleration of the audited financial statements and making sure that we're able to stay with the accelerated deadlines that the administration through OMB has put into place, and which I personally am very supportive of, and I think HUD will do an outstanding job in meeting those accelerated time frames.

Those are some areas. Other areas: GAO has identified a number of areas that are at high risk for the Department. Our rental housing assistance program is at a high risk; our single family mortgage insurance program is another area of high risk. Those are two very large programmatic areas for the Department, where much needs to be done in order to improve those programs.

For example, reducing erroneous payments. When I mention the rental housing assistance program, we have an estimated $2 billion in overpayment of rent subsidies every year. And that is a significant problem. It's one of the largest erroneous -- problems of erroneous payments within the federal government.

So when we're talking about financial management as an extremely high priority for this Secretary, and myself in support of Secretary Martinez, to address that particular problem of erroneous payments, we have a very ambitious goal; to cut that level of erroneous payments by 50 percent by 2005. And we have a very detailed plan in place, and are working closely with GAO and our Inspector General and OMB to make sure that we stay on track to address that kind of problem.

But that's just some of the examples of areas that are priorities for us. And there are always more.

Mr. Lawrence: One of the things you talked about was either getting or having improved financial systems. Could you explain how that benefits the Department to have new systems like that?

Ms. Antonelli: Improving our financial systems is probably the single most important thing that we could do within the Department to improve how the Department operates, its ability to meet its mission, the ability of our programs to serve our clients.

Mr. Lawrence: Is it with the timely provision of accurate information, or is it with new information? How do the managers get to do this?

Ms. Antonelli: It is by being able to provide better information to people -- being able to provide accurate information in a timely manner to decision makers. And that is an area that is a significant weakness in our system.

So as we look forward to making improvements in our systems, the reporting end of it is certainly a very important aspect that needs to be improved. And again, I feel very strongly that to the extent we can do a better job in improving our financial systems, it will have a very significant impact on -- it is the most critical thing to improving the operations of the Department.

And again, that is why I feel very fortunate as the CFO at HUD under Secretary Mel Martinez. Because the environment in which we are in, supported by things like the President's Management Agenda, we have an outstanding environment where everyone is extremely supportive and understands that this is the highest priority.

So as CFO, I have -- and I feel fortunate to have an environment very much conducive to finally, for the first time in many, many years, being able to actually accomplish this goal within the Department. And it is something that I very much look forward to and very much want to be a part of.

Mr. Greben: Financial system implementations require a high degree of coordination between the IT department and the finance group within HUD. What management challenges does this present and how have you been working through them?

Ms. Antonelli: The CFO and the CIO -- and I think probably many others have said this as well -- the relationship between the CFO and CIO are extremely important. Our ability to accomplish what we want to in terms of improving our financial systems is very tied to a close working relationship with the IT specialists within our department.

We have done -- I think within HUD, we have a model system. I think it has been viewed as a model system, and rightly so -- for evaluating our IT investments, our investment technology and information management process by which we evaluate our information technology needs, establish priorities, and fund those priorities.

As CFO, I have the working capital fund. The working capital fund within the Department is what pays for IT investments. So the CFO and CIO, and for example, the chief procurement officer and others very much work hand in hand as part of the investment technology information management process to evaluate our information technology needs, to prioritize those needs and to fund those needs. And obviously, financial assistance is a very major component of all of that.

But I think it's a system that works well. And it works well within HUD because it is taken to the highest levels. All of the principles -- that is, at least to the Assistant Secretary level, if not higher, are fully engaged in this administration in reviewing our information technology investments, and setting those priorities.

And I think we have been making very good progress, and will continue to make even more progress in being smarter about how we prioritize those investments, and where we put our dollars to address the most significant problems.

Mr. Lawrence: What would you recommend to other large organizations that might be planning to undertake the development of such systems?

Ms. Antonelli: I think that's an excellent question. And a number of other departments have already taken steps to improve their financial systems, and are perhaps further along than HUD is at this point. So obviously from my perspective, in working with my staff, one of the questions that I asked is let's go look at what other departments have done. I think you need to go look at lessons learned, and the exercises that other departments have gone through, for better or worse, in making decisions with respect to their financial systems.

So that has been -- benchmarking -- has been an important part of our learning and gathering of information. You know, in coming into HUD, you know, one of the things you have to look at is history. How did we get to where we are today?

And from my perspective, one of the biggest mistakes that's made and missteps -- constantly made repeatedly over the years at HUD -- and again, I think this is something that's common to many, many departments -- is that the planning steps are often short-circuited, for whatever reasons. If there are significant external pressures -- factors that come to bear -- decisions -- agencies sometimes are forced to act very quickly to make decisions about their financial systems. And that's done in the absence of sufficient planning up front. And I think ultimately that has contributed to these systems not really reaching their full potential, or having problems, or not having strong reporting functions, as we talked about earlier.

So for me, to some degree, it has been really putting a lot of care up front and to really looking at where we are today. What problems are we confronting? What problems do we need to solve? And thinking about that before we leap forward and make decisions about our financial systems, even though -- and I think it's a positive thing -- we have a lot of attention focused on improving financial performance, and financial systems being a big part of that.

But planning is so important. And we want to make sure that we think about this thoughtfully, carefully, and make sure that whatever decisions we make, to the extent we decide to upgrade or make other changes to our system, that it's the right decision for the Department, and it's going to benefit the Department in the long term.

Mr. Lawrence: You described, as you were talking about the systems, the involvement of very senior level people. What are the management's challenges of getting these people involved and keeping them -- since they're so busy and have so many things pulling at them?

Ms. Antonelli: Again, I think I'm extremely fortunate, because I work with a senior team, all the way up through Secretary Mel Martinez, who is very focused and committed to addressing management challenges that face the Department. Again, you know, some of the issues that I mentioned. It ranges anything from human capital to improving financial performance, to dealing with our rental housing assistance, the erroneous payment issue and our single family mortgage insurance.

There is a very high priority that's placed on senior management at the Department to address these issues. And again, it's reflected through the tone that was set at the beginning of the administration with the President's management agenda. So what does that mean day-to-day within HUD? It means, day-to-day, as CFO, I have immediate cooperation and access and continuing communications with my colleagues, the other assistant secretaries within the Department, to focus on these issues. And very quick responses.

Because I think, as I had said earlier, there is probably nothing more significant that we can do within the Department of Housing and Urban Development than to really improve the ability of us to carry out our mission to serve the populations that Congress and the President want us to serve, unless we deal with these financial management issues. And we all understand that.

So we have monthly high-level executive management meetings that focus on the President's Management Agenda, that focus on these management weaknesses, that focus on the GAO high-risk issues, and what progress are we making each and every month, and in my case, each and every week, to address these issues. So there's a very supportive -- as it should be -- environment for addressing these management challenges. A very, very large commitment to doing that.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. Rejoin us after the break as we continue our conversation about management with Angela Antonelli of HUD.

What's the CFO Council and what do they do? We'll ask Angela when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Angela Antonelli. Angela is the chief financial officer at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And joining us in our conversation is Greg Greben.

Well, Angela, you've talked about this and so I'm curious. Integrating budget and performance information is very critical. How does HUD approach these challenges?

Ms. Antonelli: Budget and performance integration, which is another element of the President's Management Agenda, is extremely important. It's an important direction for us to be moving in, because so often, budget decisions -- decisions about the allocation of dollars to programs, is too often made in the absence of information.

What do we know historically about how programs have worked? Are they working? Are they not working? What do we expect programs to accomplish? I think these are all pretty basic questions. But too often, when you look at federal programs, we actually don't know the answer to those basic questions. And that in a nutshell is what when we talk about budget and performance integration, what we're talking about. It's really understanding what we're supposed to be accomplishing with the programs that we fund year after year.

So what does that mean in terms of what we're doing now? Well, obviously, HUD has had budgets for several years. But now what it means is that we're actually looking at our programs, and going through a process, which we've been doing now for several years, because the Government Performance and Results Act has been implemented since 1997, which the basic concept behind the Results Act has been this idea of establishing a strategic plan with programmatic goals and objectives, and then you're going to measure your performance in achieving those goals -- that concept has been around now for about 5 years. But really to kick it up several notches.

This administration, through the President's Management Agenda, has embraced the concept of the Government Performance and Results Act and taken it to a new level, and said we are going to be quite serious about demanding results. You need to show results, in order to be able to, year after year, justify the funding levels for your programs. And in the absence of information, it's hard for you to make that case. And so you are being pushed to collect useful data that will tell you about how your programs are performing.

And in order to be able to collect that data, you obviously have to know what you want to collect. So you need to step back and determine what kinds of performance measures. What are the objectives? What are you trying to achieve with the program? Why are you doing it? How are you intending to help people through a particular program? So what we've begun to do in this most recent round is in fact develop budgets that incorporate performance measures, and integrate them in a way that they've never really been integrated before.

Mr. Lawrence: How is the quality of the data on performance? I mean, you've given us very detailed descriptions about how financial information is collected -- my sense is that it's very rigorous. But performance often involves people and time and things. And I'm just curious how that information is.

Ms. Antonelli: It's a challenge. In all honesty, it's a challenge. But it's a challenge that we need to grasp, we need to embrace. As CFO, in terms of my role in each year developing the budget, I have an excellent opportunity to interact with all of the programs throughout the Department, and to work with the programs to encourage them to establish the performance measures, to think about good outcome-based performance measures. And in doing that, also then deal with the data issues.

And I find it all fascinating, because it all ties together also when you're looking at -- again, I mention the working capital fund and the funding of information technology investments. So I get to look at it through the budget and look at it from a systematic perspective in terms of what data that we need. And then in turn turn and look at our IT investments and say are those IT investments going to support those data needs?

So I really feel like I have this wonderful overview that allows me to have an opportunity to help facilitate tying all of these pieces together, so that we have the performance measures, that we are pushing to get the data that we need, that we have the IT systems to support those data needs. That all being said, we have a lot of work to do. And it's going to take us a while to get there.

But again, I think it's important that we continue to press ahead and keep making it a priority. And it is a priority, to move in that direction and to continue to work within HUD with our programs; to do that rather than I think historically just sort of throwing up your hands and saying, well, we just don't have the data, so we just don't know, so just keep funding this program.

Mr. Greben: As a member of the Federal CFO Council, can you give us an overview of the work performed by the Council?

Ms. Antonelli: The overall CFO Council really addresses many of the different aspects that I've sort of talked about in my role as CFO. For example, there's a human capital committee which I'm chairing that ties into the overall council. The acceleration of the financial statements -- I think the acceleration of the financial statements and a lot of the audit work has been a particular priority overall for the larger CFO Council. But really bringing together all the CFOs, the deputy CFOs, to address issues of concern; for the administration to be able to communicate to the CFOs and deputy CFOs the direction in which we want to move, and make sure that everybody is moving in the same direction and has the same information, in order to be able to achieve the financial management goals that have been laid out.

Mr. Lawrence: As we understand it, you're the chair of the Human Resources Committee.

Ms. Antonelli: Uh-huh.

Mr. Lawrence: So I'm curious. What major issues does the committee plan to address?

Ms. Antonelli: Again, I think, you know, earlier, I had said people are everything, and I was quite serious about that. So when I was asked if I wanted to play a role in terms of chairing a committee, the Human Capital Committee to me was actually extremely important and an extremely valuable committee. Because again, I think from a human capital perspective, there's probably no bigger challenge facing the federal government, there's certainly no bigger challenge that faces the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A large part of our existing staff can retire tomorrow. That's also true of many people that work for me. We need to take steps to help another generation of students think about a career in the federal government. It presents wonderful opportunities; to think of a career in financial management, and to understand what a great experience that can be.

So to create opportunities and incentives at the junior level to attract talented people into the federal government, particularly into the financial management area. But then also how do we retain? How do we mentor? What kind of incentives do we provide to the staff that we have to continue to have them grow and develop skills?

As the CFO, and having budgeting and finance within my portfolio, one of the things that I have placed a high priority on is cross-pollination; that my budget people understand what my accounting folks do; that my accounting folks understand what my budgeting folks do to take people out of silos, so that the future deputy CFO and CFOs will have that broad-based experience.

And what kind of training opportunities -- we're looking at that within the Council -- can we provide to help facilitate that cross-pollination down the road. So there's a lot that we need to do at all levels to attract new people into the federal government, junior people in, attract people and retain people at mid-levels, and then continue to mentor and train people to become our future senior executives.

And there are a number of things that we're looking at. The use of internship programs, the existing Presidential Management Intern program that I myself went through is not something that's used to tap people into the financial management area. And also to look at a new financial executive development program, perhaps, that would be a very structured program -- again, that would expose an employee to all different aspects of financial management, finance and budgeting, with the hope that this is someone who ultimately -- a CFO putting them in this program sees them as perhaps a future deputy CFO or CFO.

Mr. Greben: Can you tell us more about the CFO Fellows Program? Who participates in the program and what benefits do they receive from being involved?

Ms. Antonelli: When I mentioned the Federal Executive Development Program, that is something that we're working on I see as taking -- to some degree replacing the CFO Fellows Program. And again, the CFO Fellows Program, when it was established I think conceptually is an excellent idea. I just think there is some additional work within the Human Capital Committee that we thought would be necessary to continue to improve that program and create institutional incentives that live on their own for people to want to participate, and agencies to participate in the program.

But the CFO Fellows Program certainly provided opportunities for federal employees in the financial management area to be exposed to different agencies, different ways of operating -- sort of on-the-job training in different agencies, and to learn from that.

I think one of the unfortunate downsides in just how that program happened to be structured that I think maybe perhaps didn't allow it to arise to its potential is that so many of the people who entered the program left their agencies for so long, and often never came back. So we want to structure a program that gives people that kind of exposure, but alleviates the concerns about is this something that I'll spend money on and then I'm going to ultimately just lose a staff person.

Mr. Lawrence: The CFO Council has been in existence for quite a while, as I understand it. How do you think, or do you think, its role will evolve over the years?

Ms. Antonelli: I think many of the things that it currently does are appropriate in terms of what the mission of the council should be, being a vehicle for bringing together the CFOs and deputy CFOs, and addressing administration priorities in the area of financial management and disseminating information to the deputy CFOs and the CFOs.

I think over time, it will continue, I think, to evolve. And the various committees that make up the Council will continue to be integrated into the full committee, I think, in a more effective manner. And I guess part of my hope also is that there are other councils -- the CIO Council, the Procurement Council and other councils -- and to really hope that the CFO Council perhaps more periodically interacts closely with those councils at the CFO/Deputy CFO level.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good stopping point. Rejoin us as we continue talking about management with Angela Antonelli of HUD.

What does the future hold for financial management? We'll ask Angela for her thoughts when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and today's conversation is with Angela Antonelli. Angela is the chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And joining us in our conversation is Greg Greben.

Mr. Greben: What is your vision for the Department's financial management over the next 5 to 10 years?

Ms. Antonelli: Well, there are many different things that I hope we can accomplish over the next several years to improve our financial performance. Obviously, continue to maintain a clean audit is a high priority for us. So that's something that I hope we're going to be able to continue to achieve as a goal. Continuing to improve the quality of our financial systems, the accuracy and the timeliness of the information that we produce is another area that's extremely important.

I mentioned earlier the problem we have with erroneous payments -- $2 billion in overpayments of rental housing subsidies. Reducing erroneous payments is again a very large priority for us. So improving our financial systems. I think we want to get a clean audit. The acceleration of the audit is something that I embrace. And I look forward to HUD meeting that challenge and doing it very, very well. But again, as I've said, I cannot overemphasize that improving our financial systems is an extremely high priority within the Department, and making sure that our systems are well-integrated over time.

Mr. Lawrence: When you think about success measures -- and you talked about this when we were talking about budget and performance integration, for a program to be successful, you look at the metrics -- are there any one or two metrics we should look at in terms of, you know, the success of financial management at HUD?

Ms. Antonelli: Well, I mean, again, you know, erroneous payments, to the extent that we don't have -- we can actually know how our money is being spent, making sure that the right benefit gets to the right person and money isn't being wasted. I think ultimately, you know, financial management success and our measure of success will translate into program performance and being able to measure performance, and to be successful in achieving those programmatic goals.

So, you know, to me, financial management success isn't focused solely on systems. It is what about those systems will actually translate into improving the performance of the Department and achieving our mission. So to me, financial management success is, at the end of the day, going to be measured by programmatic success in achieving the mission of the Department.

Mr. Greben: Will program managers assume more responsibility for financial management?

Ms. Antonelli: Absolutely. I think, as part of all of the efforts that we've been discussing as part of the President's Management Agenda and what we're doing at HUD, and what the General Accounting Office -- you know. When we talk about improving financial performance and our financial systems, these are things that the General Accounting Office and our Inspector General and the OMB, and as part of the President's Management Agenda, everybody has us focused on.

And you know, ultimately, to be able to accomplish our goals in these areas, everybody has to be a financial manager to some extent. And part of our efforts -- again, it all goes back to people and human capital, and making sure that it's not just the staff that works for me as the chief financial officer, but people within the program offices throughout the Department who are responsible for program execution -- the budget officers understand what their responsibilities are, and are also well-trained and can be good financial stewards.

So I see my responsibilities in terms of human capital as not just confined to the office of the chief financial officer, but very much to do that throughout the Department, and to be a catalyst for improving the skills of financial managers throughout the Department. And there are financial managers throughout the Department; they are not just within the office of the chief financial officer.

Mr. Lawrence: I was going to ask about that. A couple of times in that answer, you mentioned training and teaching. Will there have to be more formal training of the program managers who are not used to financial things?

Ms. Antonelli: Well, within HUD, I would say yes. I think, you know, there are lots of training opportunities that are out there. But again, in the larger context of dealing with management challenges that face the Department, and the financial management challenges facing the Department, and how much of a priority now we are making of these issues, it also focuses -- and it's a good thing -- focuses attention on the training issues and the skill levels of our people. And what do they need?

Again, my job is to make sure that we do everything we can to provide the tools to our people to be able to do their jobs. And I think that inevitably brings you back towards looking at, you know, what training resources are available? Are we really tapping them as effectively as possible? You know, what are the gaps that are there?

And so really -- and working with people on individual development plans, and looking at what they really need in order to be able to do their jobs, and to be forward-looking. You know, where are they going to go? What is their potential? And are we being able to provide them with things that will help them live up to their potential?

Mr. Lawrence: A couple of times in our conversation -- actually, more than a couple -- we've talked about how technology will improve things, and new systems to do stuff. So I'm curious as you look out, and there will be new ways of technology, how that will impact the management and the challenges at HUD?

Ms. Antonelli: I just think, you know, at the end of the day, information technology and staying ahead of the curve will be extremely important to the work that we do, and understanding what types of tools are out there and available to us as we try to address these challenges, information technology is obviously a critical component of what we're doing. And again, constantly evaluating our existing systems and information technology projects, and making sure that we're always doing things as smartly and as efficiently as possible. But, you know, obviously, as technology evolves, that's going to continue to play an extremely important role in how HUD chooses to do its business.

Mr. Lawrence: Do you think it will change the way HUD or the financial operations are managed? There's a ratio of managers to employees, the employees are doing things. And as there's more technology and there's more systems and more automations, will those ratios be the same? Will the skills be used the same way? I mean, how do you imagine that these kinds of things might change the way management actually happens?

Ms. Antonelli: Well, I mean, I think if you look historically, that has been the case. But even though that may be the case, in terms of the evolution of information technology and decisions about how we do business being influenced by that, you know, I look at a department like Housing and Urban Development. And it's a department that over the past 6 or 7 years had its staff cut by half. It's an aging workforce.

I think we have such significant human capital issues that we need to deal with that there is plenty of business within HUD that needs to be done. And our challenge is finding all of the resources, whether they be people or information technology, to meet those needs.

Mr. Lawrence: And our last question is what advice would you give to a young person considering a career in public service, and maybe even at HUD?

Ms. Antonelli: I would start out with HUD, because I think HUD is a great place to work. I think the mission of the Department is such an important mission. So if any of the listeners out there who are currently in the federal government or are considering a career in the federal government, I welcome you to take a look at HUD. And you can go to our website at www.hud.gov.

You know, I've always seen myself as having a career in public service. And that started from a very young age. It's -- to me, it's an extremely rewarding career to pursue. I think for so many people, you know, what we saw happen on September 11, 2001 only reinforced in my mind what an honor and a privilege it is every day to do the work that I do. And I do enjoy it tremendously.

To me, there's no more noble service than a career in public service. It's an opportunity to make people's lives better. For me, what motivated me to look at a life in public service is having parents who are immigrants, who came to this country who didn't have very much. And they were able to have children who were able to go to very good schools and really pursue their dreams.

And so for me, it's always been a motivation to preserve the American Dream -- to make sure that those opportunities are available for future generations, the things that make this country so great and the freedoms that we have. And that, in a nutshell, is why public service is so important to me.

For someone who comes into public service -- you know, I came in and I started my career in Washington -- don't settle. Don't be told that there are limits to what you can do. Strive to perform at your very best. Look for good mentors who will help you to be your best and to accomplish the things that motivated you to enter federal service. Certainly, there are going to be challenges along the way. And I think at the beginning of the interview, I talked about human capital and procurement as being two of the biggest challenges. But it can be an incredibly rewarding career. So look for good people to work with; don't settle for anything less than that. And stay true to what you came into federal service for.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, that's a good stopping point. I'm afraid we're out of time. Greg and I want to thank you for joining us this morning, Angela.

Ms. Antonelli: Thanks very much. It was my pleasure. And the CFO Council website I mentioned -- www.hud.gov. I would welcome anybody to look at our website. Feel free to look at the CFO website to learn more about what a chief financial officer does. Thank you again. I really appreciate it.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Angela Antonelli, the chief financial officer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Be sure and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs, and you can also get a transcript of today's very interesting conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

 

Angela Antonelli
02/01/2003
Angela Antonelli

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