At the end of 2019, the President signed the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act, officially making it a law.
After hearing the news, we sat down with AmpliFund’s President and Founder, as well as board member of the Data Foundation and Data Coalition, Adam Roth to learn more about this piece of legislation. Specifically, Roth explains how the GREAT Act will have you seeing more positive results from your grant dollars.
To start, can you tell us more about the GREAT Act, including the history of this piece of legislation?
Roth: The DATA (Digital Accountability and Transparency Act) Act was signed into law in 2014. The DATA Act covers a broad set of spending guidelines, rules and parameters for all Federal spending.
Following the passing of the DATA Act, a series of pilots emerged. In 2017, a list of recommendations was made based on these pilots, and from these recommendations, the GREAT Act emerged.
The GREAT Act is more narrowly focused as it creates specificity and additional layers around what was in the original DATA Act. It’s focused with more detail on grant reporting and technology and adds additional requirements and compliance structures for grant recipients, specifically in the area of performance management.
As a board member of the Data Coalition and Data Foundation, you must have played a role in the development of the GREAT Act. Can you elaborate on how and why you have made it a point to involve AmpliFund in data legislation, specifically the GREAT Act?
Roth: The Data Coalition was originally founded by Hudson Hollister, who drafted the first DATA Act legislation when he worked for Representative Issa. The original focus of the coalition, therefore, was to support the passage of the DATA Act, and I believed that this legislation would ultimately affect [AmpliFund] customers in a positive way. AmpliFund got involved at a time when other grant management companies were pushing against this idea.
Due to the work AmpliFund did with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board in the Grant Reporting and Information Pilot (GRIP) project, we were asked to be involved as an adviser with the DATA Act Section 5 Pilot under OMB (Office of Management and Budget) and run by HHS (Health and Human Services). In this role, we supported a variety of test models and actually proposed our own that we eventually ran in partnership with the Data Coalition (although this was never officially a test model). All of this work supported the recommendation that OMB delivered to Congress in the DATA Act Pilot final report in August of 2017.
So for you the passing of the GREAT Act is just the necessary next step in what you have found to be important for a while – driving legislation that pushes for more transparency and accountability of Federal spending?
Roth: It’s just a continuum. There’s really a drive towards looking at Federal data. So while today there’s not a lot of bipartisan support, the GREAT Act was unanimously passed in the Senate with bipartisan support. You have a lot of Democrats and Republicans coming together around data and open data and compliance and making sure taxpayers’ dollars are being spent well. All of this legislation and policy coming together is increasing the level of accurate data and transparency of Federal spending. Approximately 20 percent of the Federal data operating budget is grants, so it’s impossible to look at Federal spending without looking at grants.
Can you talk more about this positive effect that the GREAT Act may have on grant fund spending?
Roth: For those states and other recipients that have a system for managing grants, this legislation has the ability to significantly reduce reporting burden. This savings reduction will result in greater value achieved for the grants that the Federal government awards. In addition, the Federal government will have a more complete understanding of its grantmaking and the results, allowing for greater strategic funding plans.
Now that we have a better impact on the larger impact of the GREAT Act, let’s talk about the impact for individuals. What specific processes or procedures should those involved in grant management start instating because of the GREAT Act?
Roth: Those working with Federal grants will need to deliver single audits in a machine-readable format. They’ll also be required to have more automation around grant programmatic performance as well as the financial performance. This systemization of grant process will ultimately reduce burden and is also becoming more of a compliance necessity.
Lastly, what do you think we should expect next for data legislation and grant management?
Roth: I’m not sure what the next piece of grant legislation will be, but as we’ve discussed there is clearly a trend in government right now with the creation of open government legislation, including UGG (Uniform Grant Guidance), the DATA Act and now the GREAT Act that makes standardization, systemization and data central to new compliance regulations. I see this trend continuing in potential future legislation.
Looking for more information on the GREAT Act? Check out some resources from the Data Coalition and the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT).
Data Coalition: GREAT Act One-Pager
Data Coalition: GREAT Act
NASACT: Great Act Passes Senate