How Local Governments Can Address Their Most Common Audit Issue: Personnel Allocation
By Adam Roth on March 17, 2021
Personnel allocation continues to be a common finding in local government grant audits. Not only is this a persistent issue, but, according to Federal grant administrators, it is also an area that auditors are going to prioritize in reviews in the coming years.
Why does this struggle continue to plague municipalities and how they can address it?
Local governments manage a large number of complex grants that directly impact the communities they serve. Unfortunately, many of these governments are also under resourced which presents its own host of challenges that commonly result in personal allocation findings in audits.
These findings often occur because:
- Staff time is allocated to more than 100 percent on projects when the grants team is not yet aware of which projects will receive funding
- Funding often requires more resources than are available to local government
- Local governments have no profit margin to under-allocate their staff
- It is a struggle to mitigate staff transitions and leave
Local governments looking to combat this problem can tackle it in three stages of the grant lifecycle.
Municipalities need to consider personnel allocation prior to even submitting a proposal for funding. During proposal planning, these grants teams need to create and document a staffing plan, making sure they are clear on the availability of all existing and TBD personnel.
Local governments should never allocate staff at more than 100 percent capacity during planning, even if it is a hypothetical. In cases for which more hours are needed, they should position this as a TBD staff fill.
After they receive the award, municipalities should then confirm allocations for existing staff and determine who will fill TBD hours.
For TBD hours, the grants team may allocate more time to existing staff based on other project decisions. These teams also have the option to shift the staff allocations on projects that are still pending if they are struggling to find dedicated support.
When managing the award, it is critical that local government grants teams carefully track the time and effort of each employee as well as the time allocated to every project.
To ensure issues don’t snowball and to give themselves time to adjust, these teams should review personnel reports monthly to identify potential shortfalls in drawdown because of personnel status shifts.
Lastly, these teams should also review allocations monthly and create reconciliation reports to justify employees’ allocation to the project.
If your local government is struggling with staffing resources, it may also be a good idea to look into public-private partnerships with nonprofits. Because they are very mission-focused, nonprofits can more efficiently deliver services with substantial societal and charitable benefits. To learn more about this form of partnership, check out this blog.