Posts Tagged ‘Transparency’
Earlier this year there was a flurry of activity and far-ranging discussion surrounding a new DATA Act, legislation that would impose strict new reporting requirements on federal agencies and grant recipients.
But what happened to that proposed measure?
Apparently, it has died in the Senate.
During a Sunday morning talk show, Rep. Darrell Issa, the bill’s primary sponsor in the House, was discussing the Republican agenda when he said “we want to be jobs and the economy,” Issa said. “The Data Act passed unanimously out of the House, and it’s died in the Senate. That would bring greater transparency and accountability and save money. We have those issues we’re working on.”
If the measure does see any action in the Senate, we’ll let you know.
With the buzzwords “accountability” and “transparency” cited over and over, the House yesterday approved the DATA Act, a measure that would impose strict new reporting requirements on federal agencies and grant recipients.
Recipients would have to report at least quarterly on receipt and use of federal funds. Similarly, federal agencies would have to report at least quarterly on all obligations and expenditures of federal funds. The Treasury Department would also report federal agency obligations and expenditures, and all of this information would be identified by program, budget category, or other Treasury account number so that it could all be easily compared.
An interesting provision in this legislation is that it would not waive the reporting requirements for entities that receive small awards; only certain individuals would be exempt.
The House also attempted to put some teeth behind the measure by allowing federal agencies to impose penalties of up to $250,000 on recipients who fail to meet the reporting requirements. To enforce agency reporting, OMB would be directed to issue guidance requiring compliance with the new act.
The Data Accountability and Transparency Act (HR 2146) would also create a new oversight panel, the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Commission. This commission would have extensive power. For example, it would establish reporting deadlines, specify the data elements and the format of reports, and issue guidance to federal agencies and recipients on compliance with the new law.
Also, rather than repealing the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, as was originally proposed in the House bill, the measure that members approved yesterday would amend that legislation by aligning it with the new reporting and transferring control over FFATA reporting and USAspending.gov from OMB to the new council.
A companion measure was introduced in the Senate earlier this year, but is still awaiting action in the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
I picked up some very interesting information about the DATA Act at last week’s NGP webcast.
According to Cornelia Chebinou (NGP co-chair and the director of NASACT’s Washington, DC office) The legislation that will eventually be debated on the full House floor will be significantly different than the measure that came out of the House committee. The House is using a “manager’s amendment” to make significant changes to the bill. There were few details on what the changes would be, but one thing that was mentioned was the fact that the bill will no longer repeal FFATA.
Also, bill sponsor Rep. Darrell Issa asked Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor to bring it to House floor as soon as possible once the amendment is done. The Senate has said it won’t act on the bill until it sees what comes out of the House.
So we might have a case of wait, wait, wait, and then some very swift action.
Just as a reminder, the DATA Act in its current form would require all recipients of grants, loans and contracts (with some exceptions for small-dollar recipients), as well as federal agencies to provide transaction information about those awards at least quarterly. A new Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board would set the standards for the data and would compile, analyze and publish the information.
There has been a lot of talk in Congress about grants accountability, but mostly in the realm of post-award administration. Now comes a bill that addresses those topics before an award is made. HR 3433, the s-called GRANT Act, would call for some rather dramatic shifts in the way discretionary grants are awarded.
For example, federal agencies would have to establish and publish merit-based selection criteria. And before an award is made, agencies would have to evaluate whether the applicant is capable of properly managing federal awards and successfully completing the project. This seems fairly noncontroversial to me and aligns with current OMB circulars and administrative requirements.
But the legislation would make all of the preaward information available to the public — everything from the applicant’s proposal to the award notice and the final award decision and applicant rankings.
Further, agencies would post each recipient’s final report on a public website, along with any other information that could be useful to “future researchers or the public.”
As for A-133 single audits, the proposed legislation would require OMB to report on how the process could be made more useful and efficient, something OMB has been working on for years.
This legislation, which you can read here, is just now beginning to make its way through Congress, but I thought some of the above points are very interesting and show lawmakers’ continued interest in grants. Do you see anything else in the bill that you find interesting?
Log in next week (Oct. 17-24) to join an online conversation discussing ways to prevent fraud and abuse in federally funded Recovery Act programs. This week-long public dialog is sponsored by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the National Academy of Public Administration.
While the scope of this discussion will focus primarily on oversight of Recovery Act funds, the sponsors are also interested in ideas related to the oversight of other federal spending that might be applicable to Recovery Act dollars.
Some of the questions to be addressed include:
The board and the academy encourage a variety of participants from the general public, state and local governments, the private sector, the nonprofit field, and academia. For more information, visit the dialog’s page on Facebook or go to http://www.fedaccountabilitydialogue.org.
It seems it is not a matter of whether, but when, the federal government will impose new reporting requirements on recipients of federal financial assistance. On the same day, President Obama issued a new executive order on the matter while a key member of Congress introduced legislation that could have a drastic impact on grants management.
Both the executive order and the legislation have the ultimate goals of increasing transparency (read increasing reporting) and reducing waste. And both are based largely on the lessons learned through the Recovery Act. So the impetus for the changes in transparency, accountability, and reporting is strong. The only questions that remain are how to reach those goals.
Obama’s initiative, which is being spearheaded by Vice President Biden, creates a new Government Accountability and Transparency Board to “provide strategic direction for enhancing the transparency of federal spending and advance efforts to detect and remediate fraud, waste, and abuse.”
Obama’s order goes to say that the board will “apply the approaches developed by the [Recovery Act Board] across government spending.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, introduced the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act. His legislation would also create a permanent governmentwide accountability board, and would go further.
The DATA Act would require the new accountability board to establish common identifiers and consistent reporting standards for all federally collected data. It would also require all recipients of federal grants, contracts, and loans to report on their receipt and use of federal funds at least quarterly. Compliance would be a condition of receiving funds. And agencies could impose penalties of up to $250,000 on those that don’t report. (Does this mean OMB would need to amend the administrative requirements in Circular A-102 and 2 CFR 215?)
Finally, the legislation would repeal the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act.
I’ve been looking at the recently released 2011 A-133 Compliance Supplement and found several items of interest (at least to me) that I thought I would pass along.
OMB added a a new element to the core compliance requirements to alert auditors and program officials as to whether the reporting requirements of the Transparency Act apply to a particular program. The compliance supplement also explains that, at the current time, “this reporting at the program level may be “Not Applicable” for several different reasons: (1) there are no subawards under the program; (2) the program is exempt from this requirement because it is ARRA-funded; or (3) the program is other than a grant or cooperative agreement program. In the latter case, this designation may change once additional types of financial assistance are made subject to the Transparency Act’s reporting requirements.”
Also, when determining compliance with Recovery Act reporting requirements, auditors are only required to test for compliance with basic information such as the CFDA number and financial information such as expenditures. While the number of jobs created or retained is a required data element for Recovery Act reporting, OMB specifically says that the auditor is not required to test this data.
Feel free to post to our blog with anything else you may find of interest in the new Compliance Supplement.
Finally, the Office of Management and Budget has released the 2011 Circular A-133 audit guidance document.
As usual, new programs have been added, other programs have been deleted, and individual program descriptions have been updated. In addition, OMB has added guidance and references relating to Transparency Act reporting, and clarified reporting requirements and auditors’ responsibilities relating to Recovery Act funding.
Watch this blog for additional information in the future. In the meantime, go here to view or download the Compliance Supplement.
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?
Information about Management Concepts’ annual Federal Grants Update seminar is now available. This one-day course 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 GPRA, subaward reporting, transparency and accountability, audit guidance, presidential and congressional priorities, and 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. Click here to see dates, locations, topics, and registration options.