Grants = Mysterious? Huh?

June 20, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

370326_in_the_hallI have to admit, when scanning the Web this morning, I came across this headline that stopped me in my tracks — “Gov. Mike Pence to reorganize mysterious Indiana Office of Federal Grants and Procurement.” Wait, did they just call a grants office “mysterious?”

According to RTV6, the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has launched a plan to reorganize “a mysterious government office years after the Call 6 Investigators exposed it was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars without clear results to show for it and without a full accounting of expenses.”

RTV6 said that Pence will revamp the Office of Federal Grants and Procurement, created under former Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2005 to attract more federal dollars to the state, into a new office called the Office of State Based Initiatives.

According to Pence’s website, OSBI will lead a task force to study the impact of federal regulations on Indiana and review all grant opportunities using a cost-benefit analysis. According to the website, “If the burdens outweigh the benefits, Indiana can and should tell Washington, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ Moreover, OSBI will save the state money in the long run by helping Indiana maintain its fiscal solvency. During the last three years, the federal government has added almost $5 trillion in new debt and had its credit rating downgraded.”

RTV6 said that in 2011, its investigative team found that state information workers had not heard of the Office of Federal Grants and Procurement. At the time, the OFGP website did not list a phone number, address or person in charge. Instead, the website included a list of government liaisons that was so out of date, some of the contacts had not worked for the state in years and others told RTV6 they didn’t work with federal grants at all.

According to RTV6, at least nine Republican lawmakers told the station in 2011 they had not heard of OFGP or did not know what it had been doing. Although records show OFGP spent about $600,000 since 2005, the station’s investigative team could not identify how those dollars helped secure more federal dollars for Indiana. After the station’s investigation, the state updated the OFGP website with a new list of liaisons handling federal grants.

RTV6 said it was not clear who will work for the Office of State Based Initiatives or where the office will be located, and some state legislators are skeptical about the new office. How it will ultimately fare remains to be seen.

Needless to say, this has to be the first time I have ever come across a grants office with the “mysterious” designation. As we move toward an increased desire for transparency and accountability, it’s vital that grants offices are up-front and open. Mysteries are good when reading a novel or watching a movie, but when it comes to grants, not so much.

Have you had any experience with a grants office similar to this? Is this rare? Let us know.



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