In November 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order that sought to reduce improper payments and eliminate waste in federal programs. In February 2011, the Administration released a Presidential Memorandum on Administrative Flexibility to — among other things— ease the burden on state, local and tribal governments associated with federal program requirements.
Both actions signaled of the Administration’s intent to pursue the goals of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of federal grant programs. Since then, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has worked to produce a set of guidelines to move closer toward achieving that goal.
OMB has solicited input from the Council on Financial Assistance Reform (COFAR) as well as the state and local government community through periodic conference calls. NACo staff participated in several of these calls.
This work has resulted in a proposal that OMB released for public comment on Feb. 1. The reforms are intended to improve the way the federal government administers more than $600 billion awarded annually in grants and other types of federal financial assistance. The proposal will remain open for a 90-day comment period, which translates into a May 2 deadline. It is available at www.regulations.gov under docket number omb-2013-0001.
According to OMB, some of the specific measures in the proposal include: harmonizing and streamlining all OMB guidance on grants into one document; simplifying the reporting requirements that grantees must adhere to in justifying salaries and wages charged to grants; ensuring that federal agencies weigh the financial risk and merits of an application before providing a grant; providing guidance to ensure robust oversight of sub-recipients; focusing more audit resources on preventing waste, fraud and abuse; and holding agencies accountable for getting results and addressing weaknesses among grant recipients.
NACo is reviewing the proposal and plans to submit comments. The association also urges its members to review the proposal as well and submit comments as appropriate.