Sneak Preview: Federal IGs Suggest Ways To Reduce ARRA Reporting Burdens

January 5, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

(The following was excerpted from the January issue of the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) A panel of federal agency inspectors general recently discussed lessons learned regarding American Recovery and Reinvestment Act reporting, offering suggestions that may potentially ease some reporting burdens.

During a hearing on stimulus oversight before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigation and Oversight, Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) questioned how to find the right balance between reporting and accountability, and how to ease the burdens for all parties.

“The transparency of ARRA is wonderful, but it does come at a cost,” Tonko said. “Agencies have more burdens working with fund recipients and collecting data. IGs and the [Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board] have burdens for spot checking reporting for compliance and aggregating the data before making it available to [the] public. But most importantly, recipients of funds have costs in complying with reporting and tracking where funds go. Colleges, universities and small businesses say reporting is onerous and burdensome, and we don’t want reporting to be an unnecessary burden.”

Michael Wood, executive director of the RATB, said that the board sought to build a reporting system that would be “as least burdensome as possible.” Since being implemented, the system has enabled the prepopulation of data, incorporated checks to prevent common mistakes such as incorrect ZIP codes, and limited Recovery Act reporting to 99 data elements. Wood reminded the subcommittee that Congress “could reduce the number of data elements to collect exactly what you want.”

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