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Monday, February 09, 2009

Agencies get glimpse of the future of grants management

Agencies have been trying to streamline and improve the grants process for decades. There have been laws, administration initiatives and even grassroots efforts, but progress has been slow.

But now Tom Cooley, chairman of the Chief Financial Officer's Council's Grants Policy Committee, says there is more hope than ever that significant changes are coming to the processes that hand out more than $500 billion a year federal grants.

The policy committee developed a strategic plan in late fiscal 2008 and came out with an implementation plan a few months later.

Cooley, who also is the National Science Foundation's chief financial officer, says these two plans are setting the agenda of where agencies are going in the short, medium and long terms.

"The implementation plan is where the rubber meets road," he says. "We have products we are working on and we have a timetable to get to them. We will get many of the short-term ones done and out the door in the next year or two."

The implementation plan focuses on two main areas: streamlining the pre-award, post-award and audit processes, and improving overall grant stewardship.

Some of the short-term goals include establishing governmentwide guidance for grants payment standards, and developing uniform format for reporting performance on federally funded research projects.

The committee's mid-term goals include establishing governmentwide standards for format and content of grant and cooperative agreements as well as standards for audits of state and local governments and non-profits.

Long-term goals include developing a governmentwide grants management certification program, and a grants management workforce database, which captures and tracks employees performance and training.

Cooley says mid-term goals are 3-to-5 years out and long-term goals will take more than five years.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

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