October 21, 2021
The National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton will host the next Grants Management Symposium on Thursday, October 21, 9:00-10:30 am Eastern. This Symposium will focus on data analytics, communication, and governance and will feature a roundtable discussion on the topic.
Following the roundtable discussion, there will be ample time for Q&A.
To receive the Zoom link, please register for the Symposium.
Questions? Email Elise Johnson at the National Academy of Public Administration (EJohnson@napawash.org).
June 23, 2021
On Wednesday, June 23, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on the implementation of American Rescue Plan grants.
Shelley Metzenbaum, an Academy Fellow, presented her recently published report Federal Grants Management: Improving Outcomes and her two companion white papers on improving transparency and operational quality for the IBM Center for the Business of Government. These three papers address the longstanding challenge of a compliance mindset in federal grants management. Shelley encourages the federal grants management community to continue sharing best practices based on data-driven evidence, promoting stewardship, and strengthening accountability and public trust.
Victoria Collin (Chief, Management Controls and Assistance Branch, White House Office of Management and Budget) provided the group with high-level remarks about the March American Rescue Plan memo M-21-20 on effective implementation of ARP funding and stewardship of taxpayer resources. Victoria expressed how the $1.9 trillion in American Rescue Plan funding for COVID-19 response efforts offers many opportunities for learning and innovation. However, this funding also presents an additional risk, underscoring the need for the government to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars. Alongside agencies, OMB is working to identify flexibilities when risk circumstances permit and to provide greater award transparency.
The Symposium featured a moderated roundtable discussion on American Rescue Plan implementation with guest speakers representing both federal and local perspectives. Guest speakers included:
Terrance and Tyson shared how their agencies are leveraging flexibilities offered in OMB memo M-21-20 to reduce the administrative burden for grant and cooperative agreement recipients. Both agencies are also utilizing flexibilities already in existence in the federal grants system. While flexibilities are used whenever practicable, Terrance and Tyson shared that it is important to manage the risk. One way the agencies are doing that is through clear communication with grant recipients at all stages. CDC and USDA each have entities that engage with grant recipient organizations to receive feedback and to clarify outcomes at the start as a way to address issues in an early stage.
In Albuquerque, Donna shared that the city has taken steps to increase transparency in how the ARP funding will be used. For the CARES funding, the city prepared a document detailing how the funding would be used and Albuquerque will do the same for ARP funding. Transparency and clear accounting for what the funding is spent on will allow the city to track progress in Albuquerque’s efforts to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To address equity in the distribution of ARP funding, the three guest speakers shared what their organizations are doing to inform their equity decisions. The CDC recognizes that each state and local community has different circumstances, so the agency is including health equity language in their funding opportunities and tailors their equity goals based on specific community challenges. USDA has an equity working group that is reviewing datasets to pinpoint gaps in data and answer important questions about equity and social justice. In Albuquerque, leadership is looking at what gaps were not filled with CARES funding when determining how to best distribute ARP funding in the community.
Following the roundtable discussion, the Q&A portion of the Symposium allowed audience members to ask the guest speakers several questions.
March 18, 2021
On Thursday, March 18, 2021, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted the first Symposium of 2021.
Attendees heard from the newly designated Grants Quality Service Management Office (QSMO) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Chad Clifford (Executive Director) spoke about the Grants QSMO’s goals of managing a marketplace of solutions, procuring interoperable solutions and services, and promoting the user experience, while also explaining the roles Grants QSMO will take on in the grants management arena. Andrea Sampanis (Solutions & Services Lead) discussed the Grants QSMO’s desire to create a seamless user experience for grant recipients while reducing time and saving money on both the grant recipient and grantor sides. Mary Beth Foley (Customer Engagement Lead) presented opportunities for applicants/recipients, federal awarding agencies, and the public to connect with the Grants QSMO. The Grants QSMO staff also shared details of their current and future initiatives with attendees.
September 17, 2020
On September 17, 2020, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Symposium on grants management challenges resulting from increased grant funding from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Symposium co-chairs, Dale Bell (Division Director, Institution and Award Support, National Science Foundation) and Andrea Brandon (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, Finance, Grants and Acquisition, Department of the Interior), shared their perspectives on the impacts of COVID-19 to the grants management community
Cara Whitehead, the Director of the Office of Grants Management at the Department of the Interior, provided attendees with real examples of business process improvements her officer has implemented. The office has had success in standardizing templates and increasing consistency with award documentation and operations. As DOI plans to finalize the GrantSolutions implementations later this year, Cara indicated that they anticipate even greater process improvements to the grants management lifecycle.
Linda Miller, the Deputy Executive Director of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), shared how the billions in grant funding from the CARES Act will present new challenges and amplify existing challenges in the grants management community. These challenges include conducting remote site visits of grant recipients, receiving a higher number of ineligible applicants, and having a weakened controls system. Linda highlighted the PRAC’s goal of increasing their analytical capabilities to assist the IG community in analyzing the data they need.
Following all presentations, Symposium attendees participated in a discussion with the guest speakers.
March 18, 2020
On March 18, 2020, the Academy and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium focused on the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act of 2019. Signed into law on December 30, 2019, the bipartisan GREAT Act requires federal agencies to modernize grantee reporting by standardizing data reporting requirements and increasing public access to federal grant reports, among other provisions.
The Grants Management Symposium co-chairs, Dale Bell (Division Director, Institution and Award Support, National Science Foundation) and Andrea Brandon (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, Finance, Grants and Acquisition, Department of the Interior), shared their perspectives from a departmental standpoint. Dale and Andrea expressed that for the GREAT Act to be successful, there must be a collaboration between not only federal agencies but also external grants communities. The grant recipient reporting burden for one community may not be the same for another, so it will be critical to leverage external grant communities in different fields and disciplines drive the change required by the GREAT Act.
Ann Ebberts, the CEO of the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), discussed how the GREAT Act will impact AGA’s membership, which consists of financial managers at the federal, state, and local levels of government, as well as from the private sector and academicians. Ebberts explained that the GREAT Act will benefit AGA’s members through the standardization and alignment of accounting principles, the reduced compliance costs and reporting burden, and the increased visibility of public grant information.
Hudson Hollister, the Founder, and Principal of HData, explained how the GREAT Act will make tremendous progress in bringing the federal government closer to common data standards for grantee reporting. Hollister offered his insight into the development of the GREAT Act to provide Symposium attendees with some context for why this act is crucial to the grants community. Through the GREAT Act, the federal government will increase the amount of grantee data that is machine-readable, Hollister explained, which will allow the government to analyze grantee reports and disseminate data to the public more effectively.
Nick Hart, the CEO of the Data Coalition, voiced the need to use the process of adopting change prompted by the GREAT Act as a learning opportunity from which there can be iterations of improvement. Hart noted that there will likely be a disparity in implementation as some agencies may struggle to introduce certain changes required by the GREAT Act. To reduce the disparity in implementation across agencies, there should be a sustained discussion within the grants management community. The grants management community has an onus to produce a burden reduction over time, which will be more feasible when the community places high importance on the strategic value of data and maintains an interest in advancing data standardization, even when other priorities come into play.
Rhea Hubbard, a Senior Policy Analyst at OMB, shared with Symposium attendees OMB updates on the GREAT Act implementation. Hubbard shared how OMB’s past and ongoing work, such as the issuance of Memorandum M-18-24, their efforts to make progress on the Results-Oriented Accountability for Grants CAP Goal, and their call for public comments on proposed changes to 2 CFR, all support the GREAT Act. Hubbard reiterated that OMB is committed to reducing the reporting burden and increasing transparency, making it easier for grant recipients to report for federal awards.
Following all presentations, Symposium attendees participated in a discussion with the guest speakers.
January 23, 2020
The National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on Thursday, January 23rd, 2020, about the use of audit data to promote change in the grants space and the unintended consequences of grants management rules.
Eloise Pasachoff, a Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, discussed her draft paper, Federal Grant Rules and Realities in the Intergovernmental Administrative State: Compliance, Performance, and Politics. Pasachoff highlighted the administrative side of federal grants, which are often laden with burdensome enforcement structures and detailed rules. She shared how grantees and grantmaking institutions often yield to unwarranted assumptions about audits that may stall grantees' programmatic innovation. The resulting effect of unintended consequences of grants management rules is that grantees and grant institutions alike prioritize administrative compliance and enforcement over programmatic outcomes and substantive oversight. Pasachoff's paper is forthcoming in the Yale Journal on Regulation in Spring 2020.
Gary McKeon, Director of FEMA's Audit Liaison Office, and his colleagues, Carroll Schneider and Cory Sherb, presented on the FEMA Compliance Dashboard (COD), which is an agency-wide interactive audit dashboard. The dashboard identifies questioned costs, compliance violations, recurring findings, and systemic problems from audits. Since the implementation of the COD, FEMA has increased efficiencies by reducing duplication and the level of effort required in the audit process. The dashboard also eliminated the need for static reporting.
For information on another interactive dashboard from FEMA, the Performance Audit Dashboard (PAD), that is designed to track, monitor, and report on the entire audit life cycle, audit follow up and Department of Homeland Security audit metrics, please see this short video from FEMA.
The Office of Management and Budget shared updates on the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act of 2019 and provided more information on the act's timeline to issue and implement standards. This act will require federal agencies to modernize grantee reporting and adopt data reporting standards.
Proposed Changes to 2 CFR: The Office of Management and Budget calls for public comment on the changes proposed to Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Subtitle A-OMB Guidance for Grants and Agreements. The public comment period remains open until March 23rd, 2020. The 2 CFR revision reflects the foundational shift detailed in the President's Management Agenda, which calls for more result-oriented accountability in federal grant programs. Find additional information and join the community of practice here.
October 23, 2019
The National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a discussion on reducing the administrative burden in the research grants management community on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. The research community has found success in working with the federal government to streamline and standardize administrative processes. Speakers included:
The guest speakers presented real examples of how to reduce the administrative burden and shared lessons learned that are transferrable to the non-research grants management community.
July 12, 2019
On July 12, 2019, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a session on grants management strategies and barriers to improving economic mobility outcomes. Speakers included:
The guest speakers spoke to how making data collaborative, automating data processes, and implementing innovative practices will provide the opportunity to move away from burdensome compliance requirements and focus more on the grant recipient outcomes.
March 12, 2019
The Grants Management Symposium on March 12, 2019, hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton, covered the topic of improving grants management outcomes through the integration of data, analytics, and evaluation methods. Speakers included:
The guest speakers discussed examples of state and local innovations in data integration practices aimed at improving grant outcomes.
October 25, 2018
On October 25, 2018, the National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal 8: Results-Oriented Accountability for Grants. Speakers included:
The guest speakers shared updates on CAP Goal 8 and strategies for Memo M-18-24 to reduce the reporting burden on grant recipients. Guests heard about the Impact Genome Project from Mission Measurement that has standardized outcomes in the social sector to streamline how nonprofits measure, report, and benchmark their impact.
June 28, 2018
The National Academy of Public Administration and Grant Thornton hosted a Grants Management Symposium on June 28, 2018. The subject of this event was Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal 8: Results-Oriented Accountability for Grants and agency leadership. Speakers included:
The guest speakers engaged in a discussion on how agency leadership should involve programmatic personnel in conversations about grants management guidance and what knowledge and resources training personnel need to understand the guidance.
April 03, 2018
On April 3, 2018, the National Academy of Public Administration kicked off the Grants Management Symposium with the first event. The Symposium Co-Chairs, Dale Bell, and Andrea Brandon introduced the Grants Management Symposium by highlighting the Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal 8: Results-Oriented Accountability of the President's Management Agenda and the need for a risk-based and data-driven framework that balances compliance requirements with demonstrating successful results.
The quarterly Grants Management Symposium events serve as an avenue for stakeholders to gather and revamp grant management through innovation, communication, and collaboration. Through this effort, government leaders and subject matter experts discuss grant management issues, share lessons learned, and gather effective practices.