Sneak Preview: Broadband Program Closeout Improvements Sought

February 5, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from an article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials are consulting with two other Department of Commerce agencies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, grants offices to ensure that they obtain and review all required documentation before closing out grants in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, in response to recent concerns raised by the DOC Office of Inspector General.

 NTIA awarded about $3.9 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to recipients of 224 BTOP grants. The grants, which were jointly overseen by NIST and NOAA, were used to deploy local broadband infrastructure, create and expand computer centers and promote sustainable broadband adoption services. Under the Recovery Act, the projects, awarded in 2010, were required to be completed within three years after the award date, consistent with the sunset of the Recovery Act Sept. 30, 2013.

Although most of the BTOP awards neared completion as of September 2013, more than 110 grant recipients requested and received extensions to complete projects, with some extending completion dates into 2015. Only five of the 224 total grants had been closed out as of Dec. 20, 2013.

DOC OIG found that NTIA, NIST and NOAA were hampered in their efforts to close out grants due to computer system problems that were not identified until the agencies conducted the initial closeouts. Other issues that proved challenging were collecting audit reports of the for-profit companies awarded funds under the program. These audits should have been completed before any extension requests were approved and before closeout.

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