Short-handed public officials struggling to meet the strict accounting demands of the Recovery Act may have a new tool, available through a partnership that merges Microsoft’s stimulus360 and Bank of New York Mellon’s funds management capabilities.
When stimulus funds started rolling out to states and cities across the country last February, an undercurrent of worry about overhead costs began to swell. State and local officials charged with keeping track of Recovery Act dollars have seen their ranks diminish in the face of record budget gaps. And new transparency regulations accompanying the stimulus funds meant federal mandates and new accounting processes.
Last week, short-handed officials struggling to meet the strict accounting demands of the Recovery Act may have found a new option.
Bank of New York Mellon, a leader in public sector trust services, announced a partnership with Microsoft Corp. to help state and local governments track and report on stimulus funds related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The partnership is a continuation of a long-standing relationship, said executives from Microsoft and BNY Mellon during an interview with CivSource. “We’re in an enviable position,” Colleen Healy, general manager, U.S. financial services at Microsoft, said. By bringing together a leading provider of financial services for state and local municipalities, Microsoft saw an opportunity to create a, “one-stop-shop solution to help state and local governments manage, track and report stimulus dollars,” Ms. Healy said.
BNY Mellon is the largest trustee of municipal accounts with 48 percent of the market, said Troy Kilpatrick, managing director and head of the Corporate and Municipal Finance Group within BNY Mellon Corporate Trust. Mr. Kilpatrick said the company was looking at how to deliver services needed under ARRA and that matching their services with Microsoft’s capabilities was a compelling solution.
“We serve as project manager on thousands of municipal bonds right now, ranging from transportation projects, government buildings, schools, and other public works. We’re already doing that as part of our core competencies, the only difference is in the past [our accounts] may be from bonds, now they’re from ARRA funds.”
Typically, BNY Mellon acts as an independent third party in transaction with government entities. When a state or county gets funds and then needs to disburse those funds down to other entities, they’ll use BNY Mellon to manage the transaction. But since the passage of ARRA, tracking and reporting standards have been made much stricter, so now those state or county governments are charged with reporting back to the federal government about how those funds were used.
“What we’ve seen is that many states have one reporting package,” Mr. Kilpatrick says, “but as you go down to the local department levels, there are other ways of reporting. When you try to roll that [different information] together it becomes complicated.”
“We offer a standardized way to track and report those monies, with consistent reporting tools,” Mr. Kilpatrick continued.
And with the addition of Microsoft’s Stimulus360 solution, BNY Mellon can leverage a unique “end-to-end experiences” says Ms. Healy. “There’s an automated workflow and feed that goes into 360 that gives the data real-time use and an ability to bring the data to life,” she said.
Stimulus360 is a SharePoint-based solution that integrates other Microsoft tools such as Office, Excel, Vista, and Live Meeting to help manage all aspects of stimulus-funded projects through maps, dashboards and analytics. According to Ms. Healy, Microsoft already has twenty or more users in the public sector.
“Our goal at the end of the day is to leverage our core competencies so that [state and local governments] can be out of the business of funds management,” Ms. Healy said. “Letting government put a focus on job creation and efficient allocation of these monies is really where this partnership has value.”