WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Data Foundation and MorganFranklin Consulting released Transforming Federal Grant Reporting: Current Challenge, Future Vision. The report reviews technical and cultural challenges facing grant management communities in the context of data quality improvements in the federal government and presents potential solutions.
Drawing from interviews and research, the report concludes that the federal grant reporting system is on the cusp of a major transformation. Both the White House and Congress are in agreement that federal grant reporting must be modernized. Technology solutions already exist that will help the government and grantees move away from the document-based system to a data-centric one. The potential benefits range from improving grantees’ bottom lines, allowing grantor agencies the ability to manage programs with a data-driven approach, and provide for tax-funded grant programs to be managed more efficiently to the benefit of the American people.
“The report highlights that data standardization will deliver two primary benefits,” said Frank Landefeld, Public Sector Market Lead at MorganFranklin Consulting. “First, it will allow grantees to automate their reporting processes, reducing compliance costs. Second, it will allow the federal government to aggregate information reported by grantees in new ways, agency-wide and even government-wide. Such modernization would streamline reporting to agencies, and reduce the often burdensome requirements of grantees – ultimately increasing efficiency and resulting in cost reductions across the board.”
“Our report with MorganFranklin highlights that Congress, federal agencies, and the executive branch all recognize and are ready to embrace a data-centric approach to grant reporting,” said Hudson Hollister, President of the Data Foundation. “The government’s current system of grant reporting creates challenges for grantor agencies, grantees, and the populations they serve. Grantees must fill out complicated document-based forms to report on their receipt and use of grant funds. Moving to a standardized, open data format for grant reporting will improve accountability, efficiency and transparency, greatly improving on the outdated, burdensome system that currently is in place.”
In the non-governmental charity space, grant compliance costs an estimated $1.3 billion and requires 20 hours of reporting work for each grant, annually. No estimates have been created for federal grant compliance, but aggregate and annual burdens can be assumed to be equal or higher.
Grantees must report to one (or more) of more than 2,300 different offices across the federal government, as well as government-wide entities, like the Federal Audit Clearinghouse. Those forms are often “highly duplicative,” with over half of their data elements matching the data elements of some other form. In fact, “15 forms contain the exact same set of data elements as at least one other form.”
In early 2018, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC-5) and Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA-34) introduced the GREAT Act, bipartisan legislation to require a government-wide data structure for grant reporting, in Congress. Meanwhile, the President’s Management Agenda included committed to a new government-wide initiative, CAP Goal 8, to compile and standardize data elements to inform a comprehensive taxonomy for core grant report information.
A simplified, less burdensome reporting system could make it easy for grantees to hire and retain staff with the necessary skills to manage grants while lowering the barrier to entry for potential new grantees. At the same time, grant recipients would save time spent complying with outdated requirements and processes, which they could allocate towards accomplishing the goals the grant funding set out to achieve.
“Creating a common taxonomy, at the very least, just makes the whole process a little bit simpler and a little bit easier to understand, then maybe it’s not this opaque black box that only one or two people at an organization know how to do.” -- Allison Grayson, Director of Policy Development and Analysis at Independent Sector.
Read the full report here.
Full list of interviewees:
Michael Curtis, Executive Director, GrantSolutions.gov
Chris Coppenbarger, Senior Grant Systems Advisor, United States Department of Agriculture
Michael Peckham, Reimage Grants Lead, United States Department of Health and Human Services
Amy Haseltine, Executive Director, Office of IT Policy, Strategy, and Governance, United States Department of Health and Human Services
Jeffrey Johnson, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Grants, United States Department of Health and Human Services
Drew Zachary, Senior Analyst, Commerce Data Service, United States Department of Commerce
Paul Felz, Audit Manager, United States Environmental Protection Agency
Robin Thottungal, Chief Data Officer, United States Environmental Protection Agency
Daniel Morgan, Chief Data Officer, United States Department of Transportation
Douglas Webster, Chief Financial Officer, United States Department of Education
Tim Soltis, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, United States Department of Education
Phil Maestri, Director, Department of Education Risk Management Service, United States Department of Education
Pamela Dawkins, Management Analyst (G5 system), United States Department of Education
Holly Clark, Office of Innovation and Improvement, United States Department of Education
Hilary Cronin, Program Manager, Risk Management and Monitoring, United States Department of Education
Mike Chamberlain, Chief Executive Officer, Grant Professionals Association
Cornelia Chebinou, Washington Director, National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers
Richard Fenger, Open Government Co-Chair, Federal Demonstration Partnership
Allison Grayson, Director, Policy Development and Analysis, Independent Sector
Ann Ebberts, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Government Accountants
Jennifer Parisien, Director of Resource Development and Financial Management Policy, Native American Finance Officers Association
Urmila Bajaj, Director of Post-Award, Office of Sponsored Programs, University of Virginia
Vonda Durrer, Senior Director of Electronic Research Administration, Office of Sponsored Programs, University of Virginia
Laurie Petrone, Director of Grants Management, Office of Management and Budget, The State of Rhode Island
Christopher Connor, The State of Wisconsin
Adam Roth, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, StreamLink Software
Jason Saul, Chief Executive Officer, Mission Measurement
Sophia Parker, Chief Executive Officer, DSFederal
Dianne Walsh, Vice President of Management Solutions, DSFederal
Thiagarajan Prakash, Director of Enterprise Information Solutions, DSFederal
Echo Wang, Project Manager, DSFederal
Rhea Hubbard, Policy Analyst, Office of Federal Financial Management, Office of Management and Budget, the White House
About The Data Foundation:
The Data Foundation is the nation’s first industry-focused open data research organization. Through research, education, and programming, the Data Foundation supports the publication of government information as standardized, open data. http://www.datafoundation.org/
About MorganFranklin Consulting:
MorganFranklin Consulting (www.morganfranklin.com) is a management and technology consulting firm that works with leading businesses and government to address critical finance, technology, and business objectives. The company is headquartered in the Washington D.C. area with regional offices in Atlanta, San Francisco, and San Diego.
MorganFranklin Consulting is the brand name referring to the global organization of MorganFranklin, Inc. and its subsidiary MorganFranklin Consulting, LLC.