Posts Tagged ‘OMB’
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
The following was just posted on the OMB blog. Since it is rather succinct and complete, I thought it best to just copy and paste it. So here is what OMB is doing…
How can we continue to streamline, simplify, and improve rules and regulations? Which rules should be eliminated, streamlined, or made more effective? How can we reduce reporting and paperwork burdens? What are the best ways to cut regulatory costs? We’re looking for your ideas.
In January 2011, the President directed all executive agencies to undertake an unprecedented government-wide review of regulations on the books, in order to figure out what is working and what is not, and where appropriate, to streamline or eliminate ineffective, overly burdensome, and outdated rules. Over two dozen agencies responded with regulatory reform plans, listing more than 800 initiatives. We are already seeing big results. Just a small fraction of those initiatives, already finalized or formally proposed to the public, will save more than $10 billion over the next five years. Far more savings are expected as the plans are implemented and improved.
This May, the President made regulatory reform a continuing responsibility of all executive agencies and departments. All agencies must engage with the public to obtain suggestions about which regulations should be reassessed, modified, improved, streamlined, or eliminated. All agencies must give priority to reforms that would produce significant quantifiable savings or big reductions in paperwork and reporting burdens. And all agencies must report regularly to the public on their progress.
The next reports are due fairly soon – this fall. To improve our review, and to make it as ambitious as possible, we are announcing, today, an opportunity for members of the public to offer their ideas. Which rules are outdated? Which ones are imposing unjustified costs? Which ones can be improved or made more effective? Submit your ideas at WhiteHouse.gov/Advise. They will be given careful consideration.
Nearly $800 million in undisbursed federal funds remained in expired grant accounts at the end of fiscal year 2011, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. And while some agencies have taken steps to reduce that amount and speed the grant closeout process, more work needs to be done.
In a May 2012 follow-up to a 2008 report, GAO repeated its basic recommendation: OMB needs to establish governmentwide guidance for grant closeout.
In the 2012 report, GAO noted that while the total amount of undisbursed funds in FY 11 essentially equaled the amount reported in its previous study, the percentage of total grant funding that those funds represented was lower – meaning that agencies were doing a better job of getting rid of those unobligated monies and closing accounts.
For example, in February 2011, HHS established an interagency workgroup—the Accelerated Closeout Team—led by the Office of Grants and Acquisition Policy and Accountability to coordinate a departmentwide response in strengthening financial controls and accelerating the number of grant and contract closeouts.
“Our analysis shows that there has been an improvement in closing out expired grant accounts with undisbursed balances in PMS since our 2008 report,” GAO said in the report. Nevertheless, GAO continues “The presence of tens of thousands of expired grant accounts in PMS with no undisbursed funds remaining raises concerns that these accounts are not receiving sufficient attention. Reducing the number of accounts with zero balances remaining would help ensure that administrative and financial closeout—the final point of accountability for these grants—is being completed. It would also minimize the amount agencies pay in potential fees for maintaining these accounts, which can accumulate over time.”
If you are interested in learning about effective grant closeout, Management Concepts’ two-day Closeout of Grants for Federal Personnel will be helpful. This course provides students with a framework and actionable process for overseeing and conducting grant closeouts. Visit www.managementconcepts.com/grants for more information.
Federal awarding officials now have a new tool to help them confirm individual and entity eligibility before making any grant, loan, contract, or benefit payment. Launched today, the new Do Not Pay List web site is a single point of entry for accessing relevant data.
The portal allows federal agencies to to access data sources including the Death Master File, the Excluded Parties List System, Treasury’s Debt Check Database, and the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities. The site also offers data analysis of information from other sources that are not currently available through the portal, such as prison information and several privately available sources.
OMB Memo 12-11 directs federal agencies to submit to OMB a draft of the agency’s plan for using this new tool by June 30, 2012. OMB will review those plans and agencies will finalize them no later than Aug. 31,2012.
Just a quick note: OMB is extending the deadline for submitting comments on its “Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” relating to the grants management requirements overhaul. The new comment deadline is April 30.
To read the original February 29 Federal Register notice describing OMB’s ideas for reforming grants management, click here.
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.
The Office of Management and Budget is working on a draft “omnibus circular” that would consolidate and revise the current uniform administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit circulars.
While details are sketchy, the new circular could represent a significant change for grants management. For example, OMB may raise the single audit threshold, consolidate the current cost principles into one set, and set standards for merit-based reviews of grant applications.
OMB officials say a Federal Register notice inviting comments on the proposal will be published before the end of February. You will have 60 days to comment, and then OMB will review all of the input before issuing a second notice. If all goes according to OMB’s schedule, the new circular could be in effect by early fall. However, for those of us in the grants management community, we know this is an ambitious goal. Nonetheless, I wanted to give everyone a heads-up about the coming notice so you can be prepared to submit comments.
Keep watching this blog for more information. In addition, our annual Federal Grants Update seminar will cover this proposal in detail once it is published.
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.
The Office of Management and Budget has approved a new Real Property Status Report Form, providing grantees with a governmentwide form for reporting on real property status or seeking disposition instructions.
The General Services Administration published the form (SF-429) as interim final last September, but OMB returned it to GSA in December 2010 for further revisions. OMB has now approved the revisions.
The report has a cover sheet and three attachments: A. General Reporting; B. Request to Acquire, Improve or Furnish; and C. Disposition or Encumbrance Request.
On the new form, GSA:
Here is a link to the new form and instructions.