COFAR, OMB Webinar on New Guidance Informative, But Somewhat Overwhelming

January 29, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

ocean-wave-386363-mDid you get a chance to attend the webinar on the new grants reform guidance hosted on Monday by the Council on Financial Assistance Reform and the Office of Management and Budget? If so, were you among those of us who felt like we’ve been swept away by an “information tsunami?” As the presenters rapidly ticked off the numerous changes in the guidance, we’re you finding it hard to keep up? Want to ask a question, only to find they had moved on to the next topic? We felt that way too. So many changes; so little time.

COFAR and OMB hoped to provide an opportunity for the grants community to learn what the changes in the uniform grant reform guidance mean for recipients and agency personnel. In delivering the presentation, which lasted nearly four hours, federal officials faced even more challenges than trying to present too much information in too little time. The audio was out of sync; the closed captioning blocked part of the slides; and there no time to respond to attendee questions.

Despite the challenges, federal presenters were able to highlight key sections of the reform guidance that COFAR and OMB felt merited comment. While there was insufficient time to allow for practical application of the guidance, presenters discussed language that remained the same, language that was revised and new language under administrative requirements, cost principles and audit.

Under Subpart C, Jean Feldman of the National Science Foundation highlighted several sections “with substantive changes,” including the merit review process, federal review of risk and the required data elements. Feldman and Kathy Bialas from the Department of Housing and Urban Development also included highlights under Subpart D that relate to performance management, internal controls, payments, cost sharing or matching, supplies and procurement standards, among others.

Steven Daniels and Laura Watson, both from the Department of Labor, discussed significant changes in Subpart E, cost principles. They identified significant changes for indirect costs, compensation, time and attendance, family-friendly policies and support for shared services, among others.

Terry Ramsey from the Department of Health and Human Services presented highlights from Subpart F about audits. The guidance strengthens language about audit oversight to reduce fraud, waste and abuse and to improve transparency and accountability.

Initial reaction from the field indicated that attendees need more clarification. Thompson will continue to offer coverage and guidance about this important subject matter, including a webinar on the new guidance tomorrow at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Go to ThompsonInteractive.com to register; attendees will have time at the end to ask questions.

For those who were able to participate in the COFAR/OMB webinar, and for those who missed it, Melanie Winston of OMB announced that the slides and a link to the recorded training soon will be posted on the COFAR website. Thompson will add that link to its Grants Compliance Expert website once available.

 

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