Posts Tagged ‘General’
Beginning in August, federal agencies will have to “test” new or revised forms to ensure that the forms and instructions are clear and easy for users to understand.
This requirement was issued by OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) through an August 9 memo to the heads of all federal agencies. In the text of that memo, OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein wrote:
“With respect to Federal forms, simplicity and ease of comprehension are exceedingly important. In recent years, agencies have made important efforts to simplify and streamline forms and, where appropriate, to eliminate them. Despite these efforts, it is a continuing challenge for agencies to minimize complexity and confusion. The purpose of this memorandum is to help agencies to meet that challenge by testing whether forms are sufficiently clear and comprehensible.”
Agencies will test forms either before issuing them for public comment or during the OIRA review. This testing should: ensure that the forms are not unnecessarily complex, burdensome, or confusing; help agencies obtain reliable information about the likely burdens on members of the public; and identify ways to reduce burdens and to increase ease of comprehension.
Advance testing might include focus groups, in-person observations of users’ perceptions of the forms and questions (cognitive testing), web-based experiments, and randomized controlled experiments.
A copy of the memo, which includes links to several guidance documents and resources for federal agencies, is available at
Looking for some advice on how to design a collaborative network? The IBM Center for The Business of Government just published a new report that highlights the successes and challenges of users who have implemented cross-agency collaborative networks.
In the introduction to the report, the authors say: Government agencies face increasing internal and external pressure to share information and to communicate across agency boundaries. Multiple-organization collaborative initiatives are far more complex and difficult than technology-based projects developed for use by a single agency. Collaboration requires a shared technology infrastructure that knits together legacy information systems of each partnering organization. Even more challenging is the need to design new approaches to organizing, funding, governing, sharing data, security, and operations.
The recommendations in the report are fairly straightforward. For example, they recommend involving all stakeholders. But they also go on to give pointers about how to do that.
You can access the report here.
Deployment of SAM, the new System for Award Management, is being delayed until late July.
SAM is a project sponsored by GSA that will consolidate numerous grants and contracts databases into one location. This consolidation will give users one central point for finding information, and also one login site for accessing data currently housed on sites such as EPLS, CCR and numerous others. GSA originally planned to launch Phase 1 of the project in late May, but is now indicating that it will be late July before it goes live.
For more information, go to www.SAM.gov.
The General Services Administration (GSA) is undertaking a federal acquisition streamlining effort that while targeted to contracting, will nevertheless have an impact on the grants community.
On May 29 GSA plans to move the functions currently hosted by the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) into a new System for Award Management (SAM). SAM will consolidate nine acquisition databases that track pre- and post-award contract data across the entire federal civilian and Department of Defense acquisition communities. Included in this list of systems are several used by grantees and grantor agencies, such as CCR, EPLS, the FFATA (Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act) Reporting System (FSRS), and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA).
The intent of SAM is to take each of these systems and their myriad databases – which now have separate login functions (with the exception of CFDA), overlapping data, and various host locations – and move them into one system. Users will have one login, one source for data, and one central host (reducing maintenance and operation costs for the federal government). SAM is not merely a portal into existing systems. It is an integration of current capabilities, information, and functionalities.
The transition to SAM will be done in phases. Phase 1 – which includes EPLS and the CCR (along with other contract-related databases) — is set to go live May 29. According to the CCR website, the CCR site will go down May 23 and from that point on, its functions will be done through SAM. For entities that currently are registered in CCR, this will really not impact them at this moment. However, any entity that is registering for the first time and those that must re-register will now have to go through SAM.
Phase 2, scheduled for deployment from December 2012 through June 2013, will include the FSRS and CFDA. (GSA, through SAM, is planning to assume responsibility for the development and maintenance of the catalog.)
We need your help to plan our upcoming class schedule and training. What classes would you like to see offered in various locations? Are there other cities where you think we should offer training? What new courses or products could we offer to meet your training and professional development needs?
Your answers to these and other questions will help us improve our grants management training curricula. Please take a few minutes to complete our online survey. We ask that you complete the survey by April 1. To access it, click here.
.Your feedback is greatly appreciated and is for informational purposes only.
Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to update the nearly 75-year-old Hatch Act, a law that governs the political activities of federal, state, and local government employees.
The Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 would make three major changes:
• State and local government employees covered by the Hatch Act would be allowed to run for partisan elective office.
• The Merit Systems Protection Board (which rules on alleged Hatch Act violations) would have more options for penalties. Currently, the only penalty, regardless of the level of the infraction, is immediate termination. Under the proposed legislation, the board could also impose sanctions such as reprimands, suspensions, demotions, or fines.
• Employees of the District of Columbia would be subject to the same restrictions that apply to employees of state and local government agencies. Under the current act they are treated as federal employees.
It has been nearly 20 years since Congress revised the Hatch Act and supporters of the new legislation say the proposed changes are “common sense” revisions that are desperately needed. Do you have any thoughts on the Hatch Act?
I’ll be tracking this legislation as it moves through Congress, so keep watching this post.
This “Advanced Notice of Proposed Guidance” briefly outlines the reform ideas OMB is considering, which could reshape the entire landscape of federal grants management.
OMB is targeting all aspects of grants management: audit, cost principles, and uniform administrative requirements. At this point, OMB is simply asking for feedback on these rather broad ideas. Using that feedback, it will then develop a detailed proposal that will be published in the Federal Register for further comment.
But now is the time to let your voice be heard. You have 30 days to comment on the ideas. To read the OMB announcement and to find out how to comment, click on the link below or watch the Tuesday Federal Register.
We’ve just posted information about our annual Federal Grants Update course to the Management Concepts web site. This one-day seminar is a great way to keep track of the latest developments in grants management and to learn about pending changes that may impact your day-to-day grants work.
This year we’ll be discussing OMB’s plans for consolidating and revising the grants management circulars, new grants oversight boards, A-133 audits, suspension and debarment, and much more.
Classes start the first week in April and run throughout the summer in cities around the country. We can also bring the course to your location. Visit the web page here for additional information about the topics that will be covered, locations and dates, and registration information. And if you have any other questions, feel free to contact me.
The Office of Management and Budget has just created a new Council on Financial Assistance Reform to ”foster more efficient and effective federal financial management.”
The council will work with the Government Accountability and Transparency Board and federal agencies to:
- coordinate the development and implementation of a standardized business process, data standards, and IT
- work with key stakeholders to eliminate unnecessary regulatory, reporting, and grant agreement requirements and increase flexibilities for satisfying grant requirements;
- identify emerging issues in grants management and policy; and
- serve as a clearinghouse of information on innovations and best practices in grants management.
The council replaces the Grants Policy Committee which was established in 1999 and the Grants Executive Board which was established 2004.
I’ll keep you posted on any new developments and council actions as they occur.
This week Congress will vote on a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year. I’ve been looking at the proposal and noticed a few things that might be of interest to grants professionals.
First, while the theme of transparency and accountability grow, Congress is planning to slash funding for electronic government initiatives by about 75 percent. This would impact sites such as USAspending.gov where the public has access to information about federal aid recipients. With only $8 million to spend on e-gov, federal officials would have to make some tough choices about which transparency sites to maintain and which ones to shut down or scale back.
The second interesting tidbit is that the funding proposal would implement an across-the-board cut for all non-defense programs, but agencies would still have discretion over the funding levels for many of their individual programs.
Finally, one of the federal government’s innovation efforts is being de-funded. The Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation would be zeroed out, with only enough funding to cover the projects OMB already committed to. This initiative, originally funded $34 million, was intended to support innovative programs that promoted efficiency and cooperation among federal agencies and states, local governments , and nonprofit organizations.
So, those are my first thoughts on this massive spending package for FY 11. Anyone else have comments they would like to share?