GREAT Act Works Its Way Through Congress

February 7, 2018 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

thumbs-up-1200540When something is great, you give it a thumbs up, right? Therefore, we felt this would be the appropriate picture to run with a blog post about the GREAT Act, which is currently working its way through Congress. If you haven’t heard about this legislation yet, you probably will over the course of the next several months, assuming it becomes law.

The Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act of 2017 (H.R. 4887), introduced by Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), is designed to transform federal grant reporting from disconnected documents into open data by directing the executive branch to adopt a standardized data structure for the information award recipients must report to agencies. By replacing outdated documents with open data, the GREAT Act could offer transparency for grantmaking agencies and the public and allow awardees to automate their reporting processes and reduce compliance costs. Essentially, what the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) did for financial reporting, the GREAT Act could do the same for other forms of grant reporting.

The proposed legislation requires the Office of Management and Budget and a leading grant agency, upon enactment, to establish governmentwide data standards for information related to federal awards reported by recipients of federal awards within one year, and issue guidance to grantmaking agencies on how to leverage new technologies and implement the new data standards into existing reporting practices with minimum disruption within two years.

OMB and a leading grant agency would publish grant reporting information, once transformed into open data, on a governmentwide website, such as Grants.gov. However, the bill provides exceptions and restrictions, including:

  • no personally-identifiable or otherwise sensitive information will be published;
  • information not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act will not be publicly disclosed; and
  • the OMB Director may permit exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

The bill was marked up yesterday in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and sent to the House floor for a vote. According to the DATA Coalition, which is a proponent of the legislation, the only substantive change to the bill was an amendment offered by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), which changed the original text’s requirement for the government to adopt a nonproprietary identifier to register and track grant recipients. The current system requires each grant recipient to obtain a proprietary DUNS number to be eligible to receive federal awards. The amendment allows the current arrangement to continue, but directs OMB to review and make a decision on whether to switch to a nonproprietary grantee identifier within one year.

The GREAT Act seems to have widespread support and its passage is likely. We will discuss this legislation further in an article next week on the Grants Compliance Expert website and will provide future articles on its progress.

Let us know what your reaction is to the GREAT Act. We’d love to hear from you.  

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