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Posted by on Apr 28, 2015

NGMA Recap: Moving Forward

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth at the National Grants Management Association (NGMA) 2015 Annual Grants Training Program held in Arlington, VA, last week. With nearly 600 in attendance, it was a rousing success.

In line with current trends, the NGMA speakers and sessions reflected the shift from describing the Uniform Guidance, to the challenges associated with implementation. All of the sessions incorporated more advanced topics.

One key theme that emerged among the Management Concepts team in attendance was how to cope with risk. For example, participants had the opportunity to learn about the prevention methods and tips for identifying fraud, waste, and abuse. Questions you may want to ask yourselves in the future include:

  • Have you ever noticed an employee with a set of timesheets with no sick leave or vacation? Expert presenters cited examples when this situation resulted in the discovery of a phantom employee, and associated finding.
  • Do you monitor the purchase of diesel fuel, especially by foreign entities? Monitors often overlook this line item and may miss a quantity that fails tests of allowability, allocability, and reasonableness.

We also heard from several pass-through entities on the challenge of developing subrecipient risk assessment tools and processes to comply with the Uniform Guidance. Some of these are based on low-cost spreadsheet tools. We are keeping an eye on these examples to learn and identify smart practices and methods to share with you in our curriculum. Balancing the costs of risk assessment against compliance requirements will certainly be an increasing and ongoing challenge as the grants community absorbs the impact of the Uniform Guidance.

Tied to the theme of risk management was performance. After several of the sessions I had conversations centered on the shift from simply making sure grants are compliant to actually performing well. As a community, we will need to balance the need for transparency of information with enough context to demonstrate how grant funds support policy goals. According to Andrea Brandon of DHS, this starts with asking the right policy questions, and tying it to grants operations and management. This can work when you have the opportunity and resources to build and implement new business processes. But in the din of the exhibitor hall I heard several comments on how much harder it is to do when “remodeling” existing systems.

By the end of the conference and after many hallway conversations like those mentioned above, I can say one thing for sure: the depth and breadth of issues in our community make it an exciting time to be a grants professional.

Thanks to Shane Jernigan and Molly Kubiak for inputs to this post.

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