Sneak Preview: Grant Survey Highlights Technological Challenges

December 2, 2016 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) More than half of the federal, state and local governmental officials that responded to a recent grants management survey stated that they are challenged by inefficient, bureaucratic process or systems. Nearly half of the respondents expressed concerns about funding uncertainty as their programs were susceptible to politics.

The survey, conducted by the George Washington University’s (GWU) Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration and REI Systems, sought to gain insight on successes and challenges related to grant management oversight, use of data and the adoption of federal legislation. Of the 375 respondents to the anonymous survey, 245 (81 percent) were government representatives (i.e., mostly federal, state and local), with the majority of these representatives working in either the program office, grants office or fiscal/budget office.

While most of the respondents noted that they spend most of their time working on program policy and design and monitoring administrative requirements, they stated that they spend relatively little time evaluating individual grantees’ outcomes and impacts, or the overall grant program outcomes and impacts. However, improving program outcomes is a key point of emphasis in the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) uniform guidance as the performance reporting provision (§200.301) states that “the recipient’s performance should be measured in a way that will help the federal awarding agency and other nonfederal entities to improve program outcomes, share lessons learned and spread the adoption of promising practices.”

The survey also found that governmental program evaluation staff currently play a comparatively minor role in program oversight. Out of 201 government responders, program office and grants office staffs reported that they often participate in the announcement process, award process and fiscal administration/oversight process. However, few respondents from the evaluation staff said they participate in these processes. Even for the program evaluation process, 69 percent of program office staff, 41 percent of grants office staff and 31 percent of evaluation staff said they participate.

“I wonder what this means for the level and intensity for considering evaluation in terms of grants management,” Katherine Dawes, visiting scholar at the GWU Trachtenberg School, said during a Nov. 10 forum to discuss the survey results. “The evaluation offices tended not to be leading the data collection and analysis processes or the program evaluation processes. It may be that they are working well in collaboration with grants and program offices. However, this signals to me that those leading the process of evaluation and finding evidence for grants support is being led by those without evaluation skills.”

(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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