Proper Grants Administration Included in EPA’s 2018 Management Challenges

May 8, 2018 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

indexThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) yesterday released its 2018 EPA Management Challenges, and proper grants administration was a major topic within the document.

Of the five key challenges facing the agency, the first is to improve oversight of states, territories and tribes authorized to accomplish environmental goals, as both the OIG and the Government Accountability Office have consistently found over the last decade that EPA needs to improve its oversight of environmental programs and its enforcement of environmental laws.

The document noted that EPA has taken certain actions to address this concern. For example, EPA Region 1 improved accountability in the performance partnership grant process by enhancing the level of detail and documentation required in the states’ reports, routing the annual report to all EPA technical contacts through the use of a SharePoint site, and engaging the participation of EPA senior programmatic managers.  However, the document explains the EPA must do more.

“EPA leadership needs to demonstrate an organizational commitment to correcting problems with the agency’s oversight of key state, territorial and tribal programs designed to protect human health and the environment,” it says. “To demonstrate this commitment, the agency should show it has the proper people, resources and processes, and has developed a framework for addressing oversight issues. The agency also needs to develop a system for monitoring state, tribal and territorial oversight effectiveness so that it can consistently work toward demonstrating its progress in correcting this management challenge across all program offices.”

A second challenge states that EPA needs to improve its workload analysis to accomplish its mission efficiently and effectively. Although the document found that the agency has not adopted an overall plan to address workforce analysis, it did say that EPA has initiated some pilots and surveys to address the issue. For example, OIG found that EPA in 2013 selected an approach designed to use subject matter experts and actual data to provide estimates of workload. This approach provides flexibility in implementation, which allows for differences in organizational functions and workloads rather than attempting to fit all regions and programs into a one-size-fits-all approach. The EPA has conducted limited testing on this approach within two program areas—grants and Superfund Cost Recovery, adding that the methodology “appears promising for grants.”

Still, the agency’s activities under this management challenge do not meet the following criteria required to justify removal as a major challenge: (1) agency capacity, (2) a corrective action plan and (3) monitoring efforts. “EPA offices have not conducted a systematic workload analysis or identified workforce needs for budget justification purposes; such analysis is critically important to mission accomplishment,” according to the document. “EPA currently plans to apply workload analysis tools to task-driven agency functions, such as grants and contracts. While we understand the difficulty in applying such tools to the EPA’s highly variable and non-linear activities, EPA still needs to more broadly quantify what its full workload entails so that it can more effectively prioritize and allocate limited resources to accomplish agency work.”

According to OIG, these are the other three major challenges facing the agency: (1) EPA needs to enhance information technology security to combat cyber threats; (2) EPA needs to improve on fulfilling mandated reporting requirements; and (3) EPA needs improved data quality for program performance and decisionmaking.

What is your reaction to this document? We’d love to hear from you.

As a reminder, we have all of our Federal Funding Training Forums scheduled for 2018. Please let me know if you have questions or can make any of these. We hope to see you there!

  • Wednesday July 25 – Friday July 27 in MINNEAPOLIS

  • Wednesday October 17 – Friday October 19 in ATLANTA


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