Sneak Preview: EPA Finalizing Its Conflict of Interest Policy

October 30, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to finalize its financial assistance conflict of interest policy to comply with a provision under the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) uniform grant guidance (§200.112). The near-final policy notes that applicants of EPA competitive awards must notify the agency if they are aware that a conflict of interest exists; no further inquiry or disclosure is needed if a conflict of interest has not been identified. However, EPA award applicants and recipients, when making procurement contracts and subawards, must conduct a “reasonable inquiry” to determine if situations may exist that would require a conflict of interest disclosure.

Alexandra Raver, grants policy specialist with EPA’s Office of Grants and Debarment recently spoke about the policy and its revision to attendees at the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) conference in Washington, D.C., The conflict of interest provision (§200.112) of the uniform guidance states that all federal awarding agencies must establish conflict of interest policies for federal awards; and therefore, EPA’s revision of its policy

To comply with this provision, EPA issued an interim conflict of interest policy that became applicable to nonfederal entities applying for or receiving awards as of Dec. 26, 2104. Numerous research universities, however, criticized this policy, particularly a provision for applicants of competitive awards to “conduct a reasonable conflict of interest inquiry to meet their disclosure obligations.” University officials were concerned that this provision would require an applicant to conduct conflict of interest inquiries on an individual project basis rather than at the organizational level with procurement office staff conducting inquiries for the institution, adding that they felt the EPA interim policy was “redundant, costly and unnecessarily burdensome.”

In response, EPA revised its interim conflict of interest policy, applicable as of May 22, eliminating the need for applicants to conduct a formal conflict of interest inquiry under individual competitive solicitations. Instead, the revised interim policy requires that a nonfederal entity’s conflict of interest point of contact inform EPA only when he or she become aware of a conflict of interest when competing for EPA awards. “If you don’t discover a conflict of interest, you don’t have to tell us,” Raver said. .

The near-final EPA policy defines a nonfederal entity’s conflict of interest point of contact as “the individual designated by the applicant or recipient to disclose and resolve instances of conflict of interest for federal financial assistance awards or subawards.” For applicants for competitive funding, this contact may be the authorized representative specified on the Standard Form 424 unless the applicant designates another official. Applicants for noncompetitive funding and recipients may designate the authorized representative or another employee or officer of the nonfederal entity or another entity (e.g., consultant or attorney) expressly authorized by the entity to speak on its behalf.

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

 

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