IFMS Implementation Strategy
The IFMS has been implemented in a phased manner to ensure success and to provide GOU with a process of effectively and efficiently managing the transition from the current state to the future desired state. Some of the key Principles applied were:
i. Central Acquisition of the system adopted
ii. Central Management of the system agreed on
iii. Decentralised ownership of data
iv. A Turnkey Concept was adopted
Pilot implementation was conducted in 6 ministries and 4 local governments between February 2003 and October 2004. Rollout implementation has since progressed to another 12 Ministries and 6 Local Governments and will conclude December 2006.
In the Pilot and on-going Rollout implementation phases, the IFMS has focused on key Expenditure Management Systems that include the:
i. Accounting and Reporting (General Ledger),
ii. Budgeting, Purchasing and Commitment Accounting,
iv. Cash Management and Revenue Receipting/Accounts Receivable.
vi. Public Sector Budgeting including Activity Based Costing and OFA
The Fixed Asset Management, Inventory Control and Debt Management modules will be implemented at a later stage. Government recognises the need for increased efforts in revenue collection activities for Local Governments. Plans for the acquisition of a Local Government Revenue Module (LGRM) are under review.
IFMS Governance Structures
Benefits of the IFMS Documented by Users at a Review Workshop in June 2005
- Faster operations
- Increased level of transparency
- Harmonized Chart of Accounts
- Timely, relevant and accurate info
- Effective Budgetary and commitment control
- Reduction in number of bank accounts
- Reduction in amount of paper work
- Improved Information security
- Timely and easy access to information
- Movement and tracking of documents for approval
- Ease of Monitoring and reporting
- Training and skills enhancement for staff
Challenges faced by IFMS- Documented by Users at a Review Workshop in June 2005
- Generates equipment-maintenance costs (but subject to overall cost savings accruing from use of the system)
- Fear and resistance by some staff
- Sabotage from beneficiaries of the old system
- Capacity and skills inadequacy
- Need to harmonize the Local Govt. Financial and Accounting regulations with IFMS operations
- Negative Attitude of Staff
- Learning curve
- Occasional System unavailability
- Limited Hardware
- Delays in resolving application bugs
- Adjusting to the highly structured requirements of the IFMS e.g. dealing with unbudgeted contingencies
Overall Implications of the IFMS
Based on the foregoing, there is no doubt that the IFMS will contribute significantly to existing efforts aimed at improving Public Expenditure Management.
- Ideally, realisation of the full benefits of the IFMS, hinges on ensuring that all transactions are captured on real-time basis. Deepening of the system has therefore been a major point of focus. However, in cases where the User departments are geographically dispersed, we have faced the prospect of substantially increased costs for the communication and information infrastructure required. In such cases, we have had to opt for a manual data transmittal as a stop-gap measure.
- A highly structured system requires also highly structured data input as well as systematic business processes. This entails careful assignment of responsibilities and approval hierarchies. IFMS responsibilities were developed based on the existing GoU structures and approval hierarchy. Where it was deemed necessary re-engineered processes were introduced and have since been adopted into the IFMS.
- The IFMS also has far-reaching implications for improving management information for decision-making. The system has a range of standard reports that can be accessed by management. At the same time, it has capability for customised reports using the Oracle Discoverer tool and other Reporting and Analysis tools.
- Over the Pilot period, we have experienced quite a few downtimes. Some of these are scheduled and therefore dully notified before they occur. Others have been imposed on us, and arose from either application failure or other unforeseen system lapses. Yet others might have been site-specific; arising for example from power failure.
- Another area of interest relates to structures, staffing and skills. The IFMS has introduced a range of new practices and therefore new skill requirements. Changes in workflow might result in the requirements to adapt the organisational structure. We need to ensure that the new processes can support the organisation effectively. To this end, a comprehensive review of the staffing requirements of all Central Accounting Units was undertaken. Findings reveal that some functions are understaffed while others are overstaffed. Accounting Officers have been advised to internally re-deploy pending approval of new structures by the Ministry of Public Service.
Vision and Prospects
Overall, we have found it necessary to balance the urge to spread out against the need to be thorough not least in order to ensure successful implementation. It must be emphasised that the IFMS is a BUSINESS project not an IT project. So it is not a matter of setting up networks and terminals. It is therefore important that there is strong business sponsorship and to view it as an opportunity to re-shape and streamline business. The IFMS has extensive implications for staff skills, structures and work habits. It entails concerted change management intervention as people grapple with the challenge of embracing new and often stressful changes. Failure to grasp this fundamental point may render any attempts at further expansion futile.
Success and Sustainability
An IFMS Module Team (IMT) which comprises a core team of mainstream civil servants across Ministries and Local Governments has been put in place. These will henceforth focus on knowledge and skills transfer in order to ensure smooth operations of the IFMS, now and even after the end of the project support available from EFMP II or the proposed FINMAP. Staff are being accorded specialised training using Boot Camp both within and abroad.
The medium term strategy is to have these undergo exposure to specialized skills and knowledge required to support the application.
Change Management and Communication
One inherent misconception in many projects involving IT is a tendency to perceive such projects as IT projects other than business projects. The IFMS change management strategy seeks to ensure that there is adequate information flow between the project and business areas that will be the eventual owners and users of the system.
Suffice it to note that a reform of this magnitude involves significant levels of business change, affecting not only in methods of work but also in attitude and values. It therefore calls for cultivation of commitment to implementation of change. Accordingly, change management will continue to be a main feature of on-going implementation. It entails establishing the information and communication needs of the stakeholders, availing the needed information in a timely manner and providing status reporting, progress measurement and forecasting.