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What the President's Management Agenda Means for Grant Administration

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Recently in Kansas City, the White House released the President's Management Agenda (PMA), whose stated objective is to modernize federal services for government "customers" so they can take advantage of the same technology used in private enterprise. 

The PMA revolves around three key initiatives: IT modernization, data accountability and transparency, and federal workforce transformation.While there are fourteen performance objectives in total known as the Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals, CAP Number 8 Results-Oriented Accountability for Grants is directly relevant to those who receive funding from nations federal-grant making agencies. 

CAP 8 - Results Oriented Accountability for Grants

Included in CAP 8's goal statement is the standardization of grant reporting data in a way that will both reduce reporting burdens of grant recipients and benefit the public by helping to determine which programs are effective and of good use of their tax dollars. In charge of implementing each goal is a team of interagency government leaders. CAP 8's leaders are: Fred Nutt, Senior Adviser at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Sheila Conley, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal government's largest grant making agency, and Douglas Webster, Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Education. The intent is to engage extensively with the many stakeholders in the grant management community including: federal awarding agencies, recipients, taxpayers, Congress, the oversight committee and software providers to solicit their input during the implementation phase.

The PMA's Action Plan

There are three strategies central to the CAP 8 Action Plan. We have listed them below and included what they might mean to grant recipients in the coming months and further into the future. To review the full details of the plan yourself including the timeline for implementation, visit the Results Oriented Accountability for Grants section on the Performance.gov website.

Strategy 1 - Standardize Data

As excessive paperwork has been identified as a major inefficiency in grant implementation, standardizing and digitizing data across federal agencies will be instituted to alleviate administrative burden and increase transparency. The government plans to develop a taxonomy for "core data elements" and develop an outreach plan to share this new classification system with government agencies. This should be completed by September 2018. No target date has been set yet to as to when the plan will be fully implemented and put into practice nationwide.

What this means for federal grantees - Eventually, all reporting to federal grant making agencies would be electronic and have common fields according to the new core data taxonomy.

Strategy 2 - Digital Tools to Manage Risks

Digital tools will better enable the use of the vast amount of government data to develop a risk-management based performance framework. Work for a single audit common solution is already in progress. The government plans on developing draft business capabilities for a risk-management based business tool by the end of 4th quarter of FY 2019 (September) which they hope to incorporate into the new single audit common solution. The date for when this tool will be actually be included has yet to be determined.

What this means for federal grantees - Risk-management will be an increasing requirement for single audits, and how programs perform financially as well as how effective they are at delivering promised results will be an important criteria for their evaluation.

Strategy 3 - Risk-Based Performance Management

This strategy involves deciding what the risk-management tool should measure and how it should be applied. The objective is to fund programs that are low-risk and high value, in other words those they have the capabilities to meet their performance objectives. While performance evaluation has already been included in the most recent grant guidance updates, the current administration feels there is more to be done. A priority is to identify what is working, conduct pilot programs, and develop a framework of best practices that can be shared across agencies.

What this means for federal grantees - By Q3FY2018 (June), a new "skinny" audit compliance supplement will be issued if all goes according to plan. By Q2FY2019 (March) the single audit compliance supplement will have an increased focus on performance requirements and although the date has not yet been determined, the ultimate goal is to revise OMB Guidance for risk-based management.

Input from the Grant Community

The government solicited input from 500 participants in the grant community in the DATA Act Section 5 Pilot to get their opinions on how to improve the standardization, collection, and sharing of data. Long before this pilot, the burden of grant administration has been a perennial issue among grantees. Here at eCivis, many of our clients choose us because of  that very concern - the need to simplify grant management in order to put more energy into the programs themselves and less into administration.  It is equivalent to the frustration of many physicians who feel that they spend so much time on paperwork, they have little time left over to actually heal patients.  On the other hand, the new risk-management based criteria has yet to be defined, so exactly what it will measure and exactly how that will be determined has not been firmly established. According to the PMA, it will require the federal grant making agencies to reach a consensus on what the framework will be. As mentioned above, major stakeholders include recipients and Congress.  If you have input you would like to share, let your representatives know!


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