Archive for March, 2010
If you would like to voice your opinion on this question, now is your opportunity. The Office of Management and Budget is seeking input about what constitutes “inherently governmental” functions as it works to develop new guidance for determining whether federal agencies should contract out certain tasks or whether the work should be performed by government employees.
Some activities seem obviously governmental, such as hiring federal workers or establishing federal policy, but other areas are less clear.
And while much of the attention is directed toward the role of contractors and procurement actions by federal agencies, there is also a question about grants management responsibilities.
Specifically, OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy wants to know whether the new guidance should say anything new about the use of contractors to manage federal grantees.
Comments are due June 1. The Federal Register notice is available by clicking here
Wow, it’s been a busy week in the area of grants management…
On March 25, OMB amended 2 CFR Part 176 – the award term for the Recovery Act – to reflect changes in U.S. policy regarding Buy America requirements as they relate to international agreements with certain countries. Specifically, OMB has amended the threshold that applies to international Buy America agreements, added an international agreement to the Buy America policy, and added a country to an existing agreement.
If you’re interested, you can view the Federal Register announcement here.
And remember, all of these changes I’ve discussed in my recent blogs are covered in our Federal Grants Update course. To view dates and locations, click here.
Now is your last chance (probably) to comment on the proposed governmentwide standard Tangible Personal Property Report Form (SF-428).
Yesterday (March 25), the General Services Administration issued a Federal Registernotice inviting comments on the form and announcing that it is sending it for final information collection review before making the form available for governmentwide use. This form is a result of the government’s ongoing streamlining effort which includes issuing standard grants management reporting forms for all agencies to use.
GSA originally published the form in 2008, and received a handful of comments on it. In response, the agency made a few small changes – it clarified the instructions and numbered the attachments.
Comments are due April 26.
To view the announcement, click here.
Just days before the next Recovery Act reporting cycle begins, OMB has issued further reporting guidance for federal agency personnel and recipients. In the March 22 memo, OMB addresses data quality, technical issues, and the importance of single audits, among other topics.
Some of the specific items covered in the memo include the actions federal agencies must take during the new “continuous corrections” phase of the reporting cycle, a new category of data quality that federal officials must now review, immediate actions that should be taken to review and act on single audit findings, and for recipients, technical issues such as when a report is considered to be the “final” report.
And in the area of single audits, there is an interesting note. Because of the need to quickly review and act on audits, OMB has told federal agencies not to grant any requests for A-133 filing extensions.
OMB says it realizes the April reporting period is fast approaching and that it will respond to questions and concerns in a timely manner.
You can download the new guidance here.
A federal district court has ruled that Congress’ ban on funding for the controversial ACORN organization is unconstitutional, and OMB has rescinded an October 2009 memo that had directed agencies to stop funding the nonprofit.
Here’s a little background:
ACORN is a nonprofit social justice organization that conducts voter registration campaigns, offers free tax return preparation for low-income individuals, provides low-income housing counseling and similar community development projects. However, the group and its affiliates came under fire after hidden cameras allegedly captured ACORN employees giving advice on how to operate a prostitution ring, avoid federal taxes, and engage in other illegal activities.
As a result Congress stopped ACORN funding and ACORN sued, claiming Congress unconstitutionally convicted the organization of a crime without a trial, which is a “bill of attainder.”
The court agreed that indeed Congress’ action constituted a bill of attainder and ordered OMB to rescind its October memo and to direct all federal agencies to inform their grantees and contractors of the court’s ruling.
You can read the OMB memo and the court ruling here.
The Justice Department plans to appeal the decision.
A new report confirms what most of you in grants management probably already knew: implementation and administration of Recovery Act programs has put a strain on the federal grants workforce.
The Recovery and Accountability Transparency Board surveyed the 29 agencies charged with handing out Recovery Act funds. Review of Contracts and Grants Workforce Staffing and Qualifications in Agencies Overseeing Recovery Act Funds showed that most agencies felt staffing was inadequate to operate Recovery Act programs, or that if the staffing level was adequate, administration of Recovery Act programs adversely impacted the administration of non-Recovery Act programs. The impact on both Recovery and non-Recovery Act programs included award delays, decreased postaward monitoring, increased staff hours, and use of supplemental staff.
The board also looked at the training and qualifications of grants staff, and noted that there is no governmentwide qualification or training requirements for the grants workforce. Only about 8 percent of the grants officers, 50 percent of grants program managers, and 29 percent of grants specialists work in agencies that will have implemented agency-specific training and continuous learning requirements by June 2010. Without a common certification and continuous learning program, the report said it is difficult to determine whether the qualification requirements and training of the grants workforce are adequate.
You can view the full report here.
Now that the Recovery Act is one year old, the Government Accountability Office is taking a look back — and a look forward — at how state and local agencies have used the money they received, and the efforts being made to improve accountability for those awards.
Most of the nearly 200-page report deals with specific programs and agencies, including Medicaid, Transportation, and Education, but GAO also addresses issues relating to recipient reporting, and a significant amount of attention to the OMB A-133 single audit process.
GAO seems generally pleased with OMB’s efforts to use single audits, although the office continues to urge OMB — and Congress — to amend the single audit process so that it can be more efficient and timely. And GAO has several agency-specific recommendations, such as encouraging the Education Department to work with OMB on a formula for determining FTE jobs during the summer months.
One new recommendation that should be of interest to most recipients is that OMB develop a “formal and feasible” framework for review of recipient reporting changes during the continual update period and consider providing more time for agencies to review and provide feedback to recipients before posting updated reports on Recovery.gov.
You can read the full GAO report here.