As I posted earlier, GAO has released its second grants streamlining report. They surveyed grantees for this one, and found that many of the goals of P.L. 106–107 have not yet been met. (Hands up — who’s surprised? I thought so…) Here’s a summary of the main points of the report.
Lack of standardization across agencies and grant administration inefficiencies
- Continued proliferation of different application, reporting, and payment systems
- Nomencalture differences across government
- Agency grant processes do not align with typical grantee business processes
- Grants.gov implementation difficulties (particularly the lack of a non-PC client, its search capabilities, and the registration process)
- Inadequate progress across all streamlining initiatives (Grants.gov, GMLOB, workgroups)
- Continued lack of communication about grants streamlining between government and grantees
- GAO recommends that P.L. 106–107 be reauthorized beyond its November 2007 sunset date
- Desire for more definition about the scope and timeline for streamlining initiatives
- Desire for an end-to-end online grants management system that grantees can use to manage their grants across multiple agencies
I think it’s important to highlight what’s being done to address some of these issues.
- The P.L. 106–107 workgroups are aligning terminology and policy language.
- They’re also standardizing grant reports across agencies (but they haven’t been implemented yet).
- Grants.gov is optimizing its registration process, in as much as it can, and is seeking out new systems integration services to create a platform for improved ‘front office’ functionality.
- The Grants Policy Committee is holding an “open webcast” in September to invite grantee comment on their work.
So there’s definitely activity around these issues. In my view, what’s needed is a renewed (and well-funded) focus on them, as a coherent whole.
Usefully, the paper includes appendices that detail the issues identified by grantees, and the actions that some states have taken to streamline their grant administration activities.
The recommendation for Congress to reauthorize P.L. 106–107 is good to see, and I hope that Congress takes it up. But this is only half the battle. The goals of P.L. 106–107 have not been met largely because so little funding was given over to its implementation. If Congress does indeed reauthorize the law they should also allocate hard cash to ensure it is run as a coherent project. If this happens, I think we’d see harder timelines and scope being generated by each of the program’s projects (the workgroups, GMLOB, and Grants.gov included).
This report does a great job of summarizing the grants streamlining landscape from a grantee’s perspective, based on interviews and hard data drawn from a number of reasonably reliable sources. As our NGP report from last year noted, there’s still a lot of work to do in grants streamlining. My hope is that the projects, conversations, and discussions that are ongoing will only accelerate, and avoid paralysis caused by Congressional inaction on P.L. 106–107.