OMB proposes federal grant management changes

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The Office of Management and Budget has proposed consolidating the process that awards more than $600 billion annually in federal grants and financial assistance.

The proposals from OMB, published to the Federal Register on Feb. 1, seek to combine multiple sets regulations into "into a single, comprehensive and streamlined uniform policy guide," says OMB Controller Danny Werfel.

The regulations combine some paperwork and application processes and propose some timeframe changes, such as allowing indirect costs awards to extend negotiated rates for up to 4 years, "subject to the approval of the indirect cost cognizant agency."

He says OMB published potential grant reform ideas in February 2012 and that comments on those plus input from the Council on Financial Assistance Reform were used to develop this proposal.

Proposed changes and measures include:

  • combining eight OMB grant guidance documents into one that clarifies important differences for different agencies;
  • allowing applicant risk assessments to be conducted at any point prior to an agency making an award;
  • notices of funding opportunities will need to be open for a minimum of 30 days on grants.gov "unless required by statue or unless exigent circumstances dictate otherwise;"
  • provide guidance to increase oversight of grant sub-recipients;
  • limiting compliance requirements to seven areas that OMB feels, if violated, pose the greatest risk for waste, fraud or abuse; and
  • concentrating audit resolution and oversight on higher dollar and higher risk awards.

The office says it is interested in broad public feedback and will use comments to develop a refined final guidance document. The comment period ends on May 2, 2013.

The reforms support both a November 2009 executive order to reduce improper payments and eliminate waste and a February 2011 memo promoting administrative flexibility, says Werfel.

For more:
- go to the proposal in the Federal Register
- read Werfel's OMB blog post

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