In the area of federal grants, the government is continuously looking for ways to improve the grant process and increase accountability for grantees that provide services and programs. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is actively investigating areas such as grant consolidation and other ways to improve grant management despite tightening federal budgets.

Grant managers themselves are increasing their professionalism through training and certification. At the same time, technology is making it easier to manage records, keeping important information readily accessible to make grantees accountable in both grant performance and financial stewardship.

(Note: I recently posted a blog discussing how transparency in spending supports strengthened accountability and the possible impact of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) moving through Congress.)

Steps in the Right Direction

In the executive branch, there are several efforts to improve grants at both the Government Accountability and Transparency Board (GATB) and at the Council on Financial Assistance Reform (COFAR).

The GATB has underscored the financial assistance community’s need for an institutionalized, formal coordination body over Federal grants. The OMB and the federal Chief Financial Officer’s COFAR group is now investigating opportunities to increase efficiency and accountability in delivery, management, coordination of Federal grants and cooperative agreements.

The COFAR, established in 2011, has a collaborative process seeking input from a wide range of stakeholders including Congress, federal agencies, state, local, and tribal governments, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, and the GATB. There has been a proposal to revise, modernize and make more uniform federal grant guidance as part of the COFAR process.

Standardization is the Goal

The bottom line to all these efforts is to standardize information, improve grant management and reporting, and ensure transparency and accountability for grant spending. While the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) is needed and will be a major advancement, other ongoing efforts have the potential to improve standards and reporting.

For more from Mike Wood and other industry thought leaders on increased grant transparency and accountability, download our whitepaper, The Changing Landscape of Grant Reporting.

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