Sneak Preview: FTA Plans To Improve Hurricane Sandy Grant Program Reviews

July 23, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from an article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) agreed with a Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG) recommendation to enhance the grant applicant review and award process for Emergency Relief Program funding under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, after a recent OIG audit of the program found that FTA staff often failed to follow internal control checklists and to document procedures taken.

The Disaster Relieve Appropriations Act (Pub. L. 113-2) appropriated more than $10 billion to FTA’s Emergency Relief Program for projects to repair and replace transit system assets damaged due to Hurricane Sandy in affected states. The act required federal agencies to implement internal controls to mitigate risks of mismanagement of the emergency relief funds. DOT developed a system of internal control that included strategies for FTA officials to assess ERP grant recipient risk, and required recipients to submit Federal Financial Reports and Milestone Progress Reports monthly rather than quarterly. FTA also developed an Emergency Relief Program Grant Making and Grants Management Toolkit, which was designed as a reference for FTA staff to ensure relief funds were successfully obligated and expended.

In the audit, OIG found that FTA had not fully implemented the internal control processes established for the award and oversight of Hurricane Sandy funds. For example, the Emergency Relief Program toolkit includes checklists specifically designed to review grant applications to ensure that they are complete, and requires that all necessary documentation to support the grant award be attached in FTA’s Transportation Electronic Award Management (TEAM) system. However, OIG found that FTA staff did not consistently follow the toolkit checklists, nor did it adequately document the Hurricane Sandy grant application and award review process in the TEAM system. OIG noted that these issues conflict with the Government Accountability Office’s Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, which calls for all federal transactions and significant events to be clearly documented, with the support “readily available.” This document is referenced in the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) uniform grant guidance internal controls provision (§200.303).

“We expected to see FTA using these checklists as part of its internal controls because the Emergency Relief Program Toolkit stated that the checklists outline key and critical required elements for a complete application package and ensure the grant is complete and ready for award,” the DOT OIG said. “In addition, the Emergency Relief Program Toolkit stated that all necessary information to support the grant is to be attached in TEAM. However, FTA management emphasized that FTA staff had been trained to identify grant elements and was not required to document all of the reviewed items in TEAM.”

After reviewing the TEAM system documents, the OIG found that one FTA region supplied only 25 of the 50 application and award checklist elements, while documents from a second FTA region contained only nine of the 50 elements. “Without consistent reviews of grant documents, FTA has less assurance that grant applications will be complete,” the OIG explained.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site).


Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *