The deadline for submitting comments for the Super Circular is June 2nd. Comments must be submitted electronically through regulations.gov. To directly access the docket for the Super Circular, click here.
The “Super Circular,” known formally as the Uniform Guidance: Cost Principles, Audit, and Administrative Requirements for Federal Awards, is a proposal to consolidate all current regulations for grants management into a single document that would apply uniformly to all recipient entities. The purpose of the proposal is to streamline grants management by reducing administrative burdens on recipients.
Officials from OMB have repeatedly stressed the importance placed on public comments. The final regulation, expected to be released within a year, will be shaped, in part, by the submitted comments. The deadline for comment submission was originally May 2nd; however, OMB extended the deadline to this Sunday to provide additional time for the public to weigh in on this landmark proposal. As of this morning, only 119 comments have been submitted.
On May 9th, OMB published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting public comments for proposed changes to the SF-SAC form. The SF-SAC is the standard data collection form used for Single Audit Act audits. The proposed changes to the form include additional data elements, as well as modifications to existing elements. The deadline for comment submission is July 8th.
OMB anticipates the SF-SAC will be available by the end of the summer. Recognizing this time frame affects audit deadlines, OMB has granted an automatic extension until September 30, 2013 for reporting packages due to the Federal Audit Clearing House before that date. The extension applies only to single audits for FY 2013.
Additional information can be found at http://harvester.census.gov/sac/.
On May 14th, the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO), an initiative of five private sector organizations that develop guidance on risk management and internal control, released an updated Internal Control-Integrated Framework. The Integrated Framework is widely used by entities in evaluating their internal control systems to reduce the potential for fraud. The revised Integrated Framework reflects the changes to business practices and regulations since the original Framework was published in 1992.
The Framework is used by business and corporations, for-profit and nonprofit organizations and government entities. The grants community will be affected by the changes to the framework because auditors will examine how a grant recipient has established internal control procedures to mitigate risk.
COSO will continue to make available the original Framework to organizations through the transition period, which ends on December 15, 2014. After this date, COSO will consider the original Framework superseded by the updated version and auditors and organizations should be in compliance with the changes. For additional information, visit the COSO website at http://www.ic.coso.org/.
Congress may be on the verge of approving The Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act. Last week, Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced plans to reintroduce the legislation following behind the scenes bipartisan negotiations with Senator Mark Warner, the Senate sponsor of the DATA Act. Tomorrow, May 22nd, Congressman Issa’s Committee is scheduled to markup the bill and will likely adopt the legislation with minimal changes.
The DATA Act is designed to increase transparency and accountability of federal grants, contracts, and spending. The primary purpose of the legislation is to publish all federal spending on the Internet with the intent of reducing waste, fraud, and abuse. The DATA Act would standardize reporting requirements which would expand the ability for government officials and the public to easily search and examine spending from one Internet location.
During the 112th Congress (2011-2013), Congressman Issa and Senator Warner introduced the DATA Act in their respective chambers. After the House of Representatives approved the bill in April 2012, a number of professional organizations expressed concern the legislation would increase the reporting and financial burdens of grant recipients. To address these concerns, Senator Warner introduced a modified version of the DATA Act, S. 3600, in September 2012 that was designed to shift the responsibility of reporting financial award information to awarding agencies. Many of the associations opposed to the House version expressed support for the Senate bill. The 112th Congress adjourned before the Senate could consider the measure.
The latest version of Congressman Issa’s DATA Act reuses most of the language and adopts many of the provisions from S. 3600. Federal agencies would be required to publish award information on USASpending.gov and to use a standard, governmentwide award identification process. Additionally, the legislation would expand the Recovery Board’s authority to conduct a three year pilot program to improve the accuracy of federal financial data.
With Congressman Issa and Senator Warner appearing to have reconciled the differences between the two companion bills, the chances that Congress will approve the DATA Act have significantly improved.
UPDATE – The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the DATA Act on May 22nd.
The General Services Administration (GSA) will hold a free webinar to assist individuals in using SAM.gov. The webinar will assist individuals in creating SAM.gov accounts, migrating permissions from the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database, and updating existing registration.
A recording of the webinar will be available for individuals who cannot attend at the assigned time.
The information for the webinar is below:
Date: Wednesday, May 15th
Time: 2:00pm-3:00pm EST
Registration webpage: http://gsa.gov/portal/event/form/170683
Link for webinar: http://gsafas.adobeconnect.com/sam_webinar/
SAM.gov is the centralized federal procurement system. Grant recipients are required to register with SAM.gov before submitting grant applications through grants.gov. Users must renew their SAM registration annually.
Multiple websites have reported on draft legislation that would alter the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) grant award process. According to the reports, Congressman Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, is drafting legislation that would require the Director of NSF to certify each awarded project:
- is in the interest of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;
- is the finest quality, is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and
- is not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.
Critics claim the draft legislation represents an undue congressional and political intrusion and would undermine the peer review process. Congressman Smith released a statement maintaining the draft legislation would serve the interest of taxpayers by requiring the NSF to prioritize funding to the highest-quality research and by enhancing accountability of the awards process.
The draft bill, which was leaked to media outlets, can be found here. The Ranking Member on the Committee, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, released a letter critical of the attempts to alter NSF’s award procedures. Congresswoman Johnson’s letter can be found here.
Included in the draft legislation is a provision that would require the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to analyze how the certification requirements could be implemented by other federal science agencies. Agencies that could potentially be affected included NASA, the Department of Energy, the EPA, and FEMA.
The proposal is still in the initial steps of the legislative process, and Congressman Smith has not yet introduced the bill.
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill yesterday that would prevent entities from receiving grants and contracts if they are “seriously delinquent” in paying federal taxes. The Contracting and Tax Accountability Act of 2013, H.R. 882, would require grant applicants to submit a certification indicating if their federal taxes have been paid in full. Federal agencies would be required to initiate debarment procedures against recipients that file false certificates or are found to have serious delinquent tax debt. Agencies could award grants to recipients with tax debt; however, those recipients would be designated as high-risk entities.
If passed into law, the implications for grant recipients should be minimal. A majority of grant recipients are local government entities or not-for-profit organizations, therefore, the issue of delinquent taxes will not be applicable.
The bill has not been introduced in the U.S. Senate yet, and it is unclear when, or if, the Senate will address this issue. To stay informed of the latest developments on this bill, click here.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a bill yesterday that would limit an agency from awarding a grant if a recipient is delinquent in paying federal taxes. The Contracting and Tax Accountability Act of 2013, H.R. 882, would require grant applicants to submit a certification indicating whether they have fully paid their federal taxes. Federal agencies would be required to initiate debarment procedures against recipients that file false certificates or are found to have serious delinquent tax debt. The language in the bill would allow agencies to award a grant to a recipient with tax debt, but the agency would be required to designate the recipient as high-risk.
In recent years, Congress has passed numerous laws to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse of federal taxpayer dollars and hold grant recipients more accountable for their awards. This bill is seen as a continuation of that policy. The primary goal of this legislation is to prevent businesses from receiving contract awards if they have not paid their federal taxes. While grant awards are included in the legislation, the practical effect on grant recipients may be minimal, as a large percentage of recipients are tax-exempt entities or non-federal government entities.
It is not clear when, or if, the House will vote on the bill. For more information on the bill, including the text, click here.
OMB officials discussed the proposed “Super Circular” today at the monthly National Grant Management Association (NGMA) training luncheon held in Washington, D.C. The officials discussed some of the proposed changes that would affect grants management, with one official labeling the entire process Extreme Makeover: OMB Edition.
The “Super Circular,” known formally as the Uniform Guidance: Cost Principles, Audit, and Administrative Requirements for Federal Awards, is a proposal to consolidate all current regulations for grants management into a single location that would apply uniformly to all recipient entities. The purpose of the proposal is to streamline grants management by reducing administrative burdens on recipients.
During the presentation at the training luncheon, OMB officials discussed some of the more than 30 regulation changes found in the Guidance. The presentation primarily focused on the proposed changes to the Cost Principles, specifically the ability for select entities to choose a flat 10% modified total direct cost standard rate and the reduction in administrative burdens, and to audit requirements, with a significant amount of time devoted to discussing changes to compliance requirements.
The officials stressed the Guidance is only a set of proposals and that public comment will be critical in shaping the provisions and language used in the final rule. The presenters urged the attendees to submit comments to help advise OMB in developing the final regulations. To provide additional opportunity for the grants community to have a role in the process, OMB announced the deadline for public comments has been extended to June 2nd. To comment on the Guidance, visit the Regulations.gov docket here.
OMB released the proposed Guidance on February 1st in the Federal Register and plans to publish the final rule by the end of this year. The final rule will be published simultaneously in the Federal Register and 2 CFR. Agencies will adopt the regulations, by reference, in 2 CFR. According to OMB, the final rule should be fully implemented by mid-2014 and recipients with continuing awards will be required to adhere to the regulations at the beginning of the following fiscal year, which starts October 2014.
The Uniform Guidance is a major topic in Management Concept’s one-day Federal Grants Update 2013 seminar. The seminar provides students with a detailed explanation of the structure of the Uniform Guidance and of all the proposed changes that will affect federal agencies, grant recipients, and pass-through entities. In addition, the seminar also includes other topics such as the increased emphasis on program assessments and performance measurements in grants management, recent legislative and regulatory changes affecting grants administration, and the latest developments regarding the federal budget and sequestration. To register for the course, visit the Federal Grants Update 2013 seminar’s webpage located here.
The GAO recently released the annual update to the Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, more commonly referred to as the Redbook. Two GAO opinions referenced in the update are important for the grants community.
The first important GAO opinion concerned the authority of the Social Security Administration to carry out two grant programs after the authorization for appropriations had expired. The GAO determined that as long as the underlying program authority is still valid, appropriations in the authorizing statute do not have to be current.
The second opinion, GAO opinion B-322628, involved the Department of Labor’s authority to make replacement grants. The GAO determined that the department could use funds de-obligated from a defective award to make new awards after the period of obligation of the funds had expired.
The entire annual update can be downloaded by clicking here.
Both GAO opinions are discussed and explained in Management Concept’s one-day Federal Grants Update 2013 seminar. The seminar provides students with the latest information affecting grants management and administration. An outline of the course can be found at the Federal Grants Update 2013 seminar’s webpage located here.