COFAR Webcast Offers Quick Overview of Upcoming Grants Reform Guidance

December 23, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

JULIACOSTARICAPICS 471This is your captain, speaking! There’s an expression often heard in meetings here in Washington where, rather than going into specific details about an issue, they will look at things from “a 30,000-foot level.” They will provide a quick overview of a much deeper topic, if you will. Well, if there ever was an instance of looking at something from the 30,000-foot level, the Council on Financial Assistance Reform’s webcast last Friday on the federal grants reform guidance —set to run in the Federal Register this Wednesday — was a prime example.

The webinar, which ran less than an hour, featured two presenters from the Office of Management and Budget, along an official from the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and the National Science Foundation. Rather than getting into the true guts of the final guidance and providing information on how it differs from current guidance, or even how the final version differs from the proposed version issued in February 2013, the officials spent a good chunk of the time explaining how we got to this point and how the reforms will boost accountability, enhance performance and reduce improper payments.

That’s not to say they didn’t discuss any specifics at all. We do know now that the reform with change the current time and effort requirements for employees who are paid with federal funds. Rather than having employees keep monthly personnel activities reports or semiannual certifications, the new guidance will require that award recipients have records that accurately reflect work performed, which are supported by a system of internal controls, reasonably reflect total activity and support the distribution if an employee works on two or more cost objectives.

The presenters also did provide information on other areas that are included in the final guidance, although not going into deep detail as far as how these issues differ from current guidance or the proposed guidance. OMB and the COFAR did raise the single audit threshold to $750,000 in federal funds expended, up from the current $500,000, adding that the new level would still cover 99 percent of federal funding.

So what’s the next step? After OMB issues the final guidance on Dec. 26, federal agencies will have six months to submit their adoption plans to OMB. The agencies then must adopt the final guidance as of Dec. 26, 2014. OMB also plans to make a FAQ section available for stakeholder questions about the new guidance. COFAR will host another webcast on Jan. 27 in which it plans to provide more specific details about the guidance. This one should be a little closer to the ground. And as always, rely on Thompson to keep you informed about the latest events regarding the grants reform and for subsequent analysis.

What is your initial reaction to the final guidance? We’d love to hear from you!



Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *