L/SFR Sneak Peek: GAO Outlines Suggestions to Improve Grants.gov Operations

May 17, 2011 | By Liza Casabona | Post a Comment

(This story is excerpted from the May 23 Local/State Funding Report.) According to a recently released report from the Government Accountability Office, Grants.gov faces funding and governance challenges that adversely impact the site’s operations. Specifically, GAO said the initiative is plagued by cost tracking, funding calculation and strategic plan challenges.

Grants.gov is moving closer to a fee-for-service model in which agencies contribute to the financial cost of operating the site based on a formula that uses agency size and frequency of use, but the report found that significant issues remain before the cost model is fully functional.

In addition, GAO said, while there is a proposal under review at the Office of Management and Budget that would restructure how Grants.gov operates, there are also interim steps that Grants.gov’s managing partner agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, could take to manage ongoing issues in the short term.

The future of Grants.gov is under consideration in a few different ways. The president’s fiscal year 2012 budget requested funds for the General Services Administration to consolidate Grants.gov, with its Federal Business Opportunities (“FedBizOpps”) system, which lists government contract opportunities. However, the FY 2012 budget has not been finalized yet, and GAO pointed out that even if it passed with the requested funds, there is no provision for continued funding of such a consolidation.

OMB has also been considering a proposal that would create a new governance body for Grants.gov, to replace the Grants Executive Board and the Grants Policy Committee that jointly oversee it.

Representatives from the GEB and the GPC submitted a proposal in 2009 for a new governance body that would report directly to OMB and create a single point of contact at the agency, which would be “a champion for the grants community.” The proposal would generally streamline the oversight, management and operation of the grants process.

OMB has not indicated when its review of the proposal will be complete. GAO has critiqued the proposal for failing to detail how the new framework would be implemented and for lacking “even a high-level overview of several critical elements.”

Adding to the long-term strategic decisions, GAO said that Grants.gov is also suffering from funding challenges. Theoretically, the amount each of the 26 grant-making agencies contributes to the site is calculated according to the size of the agency, how many grant listings it posts and how many applications are processed by the system in response to those listings. In reality, however, agencies with similar usage profiles are not always paying comparable amounts for the Grants.gov initiative, GAO found.

For more about GAO’s recommendations for short term fixes for Grants.gov subscribers can look at the May 23 issue of Local/State Funding Report.

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