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With the automated processes in place, accounts are reconciled daily between offices, banks, and Treasury.

BLM’s Collection and Billing System

Overview

BLM is one of the largest sources of revenue for the US Federal Government. Advanced DataTools teamed up with BLM personnel to develop a web-based collection and billing transaction system (CBS), which allows BLM to enter every dollar collected into one centralized system. CBS has replaced many isolated and manual processes, and interfaced a number of existing resource systems used by each office, creating one integrated solution and affecting the manner in which business is conducted at virtually every BLM office.

Background

Prior to CBS, BLM had no common process for managing billing and collections processes in its state, district, and field offices. As a result, each office addressed the problems of processing bills and recording receipts in its own way. When a collection was received, a handwritten document was sent to the National Business Center (NBC) for entry into the Federal Financial System (FFS), resource tracking systems, and other federal government systems. No system existed to ascertain that the data on the document was accurate or coded correctly. This resulted in a number of problems including:

  • Collection items were misplaced or inaccurately entered
  • There was no way of accurately reporting on collections received
  • They had no method of identifying trends or maintaining inventory
  • Offices, states, and centers had their own processes for completing tasks, and
  • There was no quality control, which created a significant workload to audit documents and correct errors.

Solution

All BLM revenue is now entered into CBS. CBS also handles all aspects of the front office, point-of-sale, and accounting for the BLM field offices, including:

  • collection of funds
  • verification
  • deposits
  • transfers
  • refunds
  • credits, and
  • inter-office and inter-agency transfers.

The system transmits collections data to the Federal Financial System (FFS), and interfaces and transmits appropriate revenue data to program systems such as the Lands and Realty System (LR2000) and the Recreation Management Information System. CBS includes a credit card scanner which automatically authorizes and interfaces with the US Treasury's credit card system. A complete audit trail is maintained for all transactions entered, from the receipt of a payment in the mailroom, through the application of the payment to a collection, until the payment is deposited. This has eliminated the need for manual logs and has resulted in significant cost savings for the BLM.

In addition, CBS was designed as a role-based system, so BLM users have access only to the functionality necessary to perform their jobs.

Advanced DataTools, BLM developers, and the BLM user team supported the implementation of CBS with training sessions and an open dialog. Functionality was built into the system for the users to report problems and make suggestions for changes that would enable the system to continue to grow and become more effective.

CBS is accessed over BLM’s intranet by more than 300 field and state offices with an average of 1,000 concurrent users. Since the Collections module was implemented in October 1999, CBS has handled approximately $300 million in transactions per year.

Results & Benefits

Implementing CBS has not only yielded cost savings for the BLM, but has also resulted in a reduction in the time it takes to do business with their customers. For example, prior to the deployment of CBS, a customer that was due a refund had to wait a minimum of three to four weeks to receive a check. With the automated processes now in place, refund checks are received in many cases in under a week, and sometimes in just three to four days.

Other benefits include:

  • customers can now pay by cash, check, or credit card
  • credit card transactions are processed in seconds
  • credit card transactions are reconciled automatically
  • accurate billing and collections for managed lands
  • monies collected on behalf of other agencies are quickly and easily transferred to the appropriate agency online
  • elimination of duplicate data entry
  • improved accuracy of data
  • access to accurate financial reports with the ability to drill down into the level of detail required
  • the ability to analyze trends and predict seasonal labor requirements
  • customer service levels are consistent across all BLM offices

As users have become more accustomed to CBS, many comment on how it has helped to improve their jobs by eliminating the need for paper logs, photo copies, and phone calls.

CBS was expanded to include interfaces to the following resource systems:

  • BLM’s Global Land Office (GLO)
  • the Legacy Rehost System (LR2000)
  • the Lower Deschutes River Permitting System
  • the Arizona Aravipa Recreation System, and
  • the Timber Sales and Information System (under development).

The implementation of these interfaces has helped to free up staff resources and enabled them to focus on additional tasks.

CBS was also designed with data warehouse capabilities. The warehouse database tables are updated on a nightly basis with the most current information from CBS. BLM employees can view a series of pre-defined reports (without requiring access to the system) based on data from the warehouse thus ensuring that the latest data is available to make the best decisions possible.

   
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