GREAT Act: Simplifying Federal Grant Reporting

Guest author: Frank Landefeld, Board of Director, Data Foundation and Managing Director, Public Sector Market Lead, MorganFranklin Consulting

The federal government is about to transform the way it tracks and manages grants. MorganFranklin Consulting will host a roundtable of federal grant management leaders this summer.

On January 29, 2018, Reps. Virginia Foxx (R. NC) and Jimmy Gomez (D. CA), with several cosponsors, introduced the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act of 2018, which will require the government to adopt a single data format for all grant reporting. The House Oversight Committee unanimously approved the GREAT Act on February 6, 2018.

Currently, government grant recipients must provide data to granting agencies each year to meet compliance requirements. Reporting this information is complicated, however, and there is no standard for how data is reported. Across the federal government’s nearly 2,300 grantmaking program offices, there are many hundreds of unique forms containing duplicate information in disparate formats. Grantees must re-enter the same material numerous times.

The GREAT Act calls for culling data fields from these many sources and creating a repository that can be used across multiple forms. In practice, this means grantees need only input information once and it will be prepopulated when filling out additional forms.

If passed by Congress and signed by the President, the GREAT Act, will give the White House and HHS one year to come up with the format, another year to issue guidance to all of the grantmaking program offices, across all agencies, to start using that format for the reports they collect, and one more year for the program offices to follow the guidance.

Background

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal government adopted a single data format for reports submitted by recipients of stimulus grants. This allowed some grantees to report their receipt and use of grant funds automatically using data feeds from their financial systems, thus reducing compliance costs while also enhancing transparency for agencies and the public.

In 2014, Congress passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which instructed the White House to study how data could bring benefits to both grantees who submit grant reports and the agencies, Congressional overseers, and public beneficiaries who read them. The White House and HHS spent two years, from 2015 to 2017, working with grantees to determine whether a government-wide data format for all grant reporting might bring the same benefits as seen in the stimulus program. The result? A resounding “yes.”

Moving forward

Together with the Data Foundation, MorganFranklin is working to gather the perspectives of federal grant management leaders in a first-ever research paper that will provide useful guidance to policymakers as they consider how to make standardized reporting a reality. (Publication is slated for May 2018.) MorganFranklin will also host a gathering of federal grant management leaders to exchange intelligence and best practices this summer, before the next big policy steps take hold. The Grant Innovation Forum will take place during the second week of July in downtown Washington; participation will be by invitation only.


Frank Landefeld leads all aspects of MorganFranklin’s marketing, business development, and engagement delivery to federal, state, and local governments. He works closely with leaders of departments and agencies with diverse operating needs and missions that span national, regional, state, and local jurisdictions to enhance performance, increase efficiency, align technology investments with mission operations and manage current and evolving compliance concerns. Frank has more than 22 years of experience in technology and business strategy, operational and technical requirements analysis, and large-scale modernization. He currently serves as an Advisory Board member of the Government Technology & Services Coalition (GTSC) and sits on the Board of Directors for the Data Coalition and Data Foundation.  In addition, he is an active member of the Association of Government Accounts (AGA), the American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC), and is a supporter of Luke’s Wings.