COFAR Gets A Couple of Pokes from GAO

August 5, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

GAO sealYou know that scene where the kid (or sometimes an adult) is falling asleep in church, and the person next to them gives them a forceful nudge with their elbow to get them to wake up and pay attention. In this post, I present Government Accountability Office as the “nudger” and the Council on Financial Assistance Reform as the “nudgee.”

A couple of months ago, we put up a blog post on a GAO report reacting to COFAR’s five strategic grants priorities for fiscal years 2013-2015 and the proposed deliverables and milestones. GAO noted that as of May, COFAR had not released an implementation plan that includes other key elements such as performance targets; mechanisms to monitor, evaluate and report on progress made towards stated goals; and “goal leaders” who can be held accountable for those goals. In essence, GAO wanted more precision. “Establishing implementation goals and tracking progress toward those goals helps to pinpoint performance shortfalls and suggest midcourse corrections, including any needed adjustments to future goals and milestones,” it added.

Consider this as “nudge, nudge” number one.

Now, GAO has recently issued another report on COFAR’s priority to professionalize the federal grants workforce (more information on this report will be available to subscribers of the Federal Grants Management Handbook). GAO noted that federal grants are overseen differently, with some agencies using grants management specialists and others using program specialists. Although COFAR has prioritized the development of governmentwide grants training standards, it has not determined how it plans to define the grant workforce. GAO urged COFAR to:

  • include the program specialist role in the governmentwide grants management competency model, either by developing a separate model for program specialists or revising the existing grants management model so that it incorporates additional competencies for program specialists; and
  • distinguish between the grants management specialist role and the program specialist role as COFAR establishes governmentwide certification standards for the federal grant workforce.

Consider this “nudge, nudge” number two.

Of note considering this priority is that COFAR’s original timeline stated that it planned to establish core competencies for grants managers, develop baseline body of knowledge as a shared resource and establish governmentwide resource repository for federal grants professionals by September 2013. That’s next month! How’s that coming? In addition, COFAR plans to provide training for core competencies by September 2014 and establish certification standards by September 2015. I know these were proposed “deadlines,” but can we expect COFAR to meet them?

Checking the COFAR website doesn’t really offer any clues. True, OMB has been busy with the key COFAR priority, which was to issue the proposed grants management guidance, and we’re eagerly awaiting any new information from OMB on what the next step is as it reviews comments to the proposal. However, a little more information on updates would be appreciated.

Glad to see GAO is taking the role of the “nudger.” Hopefully, COFAR will be responsive to these recommendations.

What do you think about the work of the COFAR and its priorities? How about its timelines and attempts to meet them? We’d like to hear from you.


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