Agencies Fail to Accurately Document Grants Worth Billions

Ismagilov/Shutterstock.com

Hundreds of billions of dollars in agency grants and loans were not reported properly on the USASpending.gov website, according to a Government Accountability Office audit of fiscal 2012 agency reporting.

Although agencies generally reported contract information as required, auditors said in a report released Friday, they did not properly report information on assistance awards totaling about $619 billion over 302 programs. The information on grants, which the Office of Management and Budget is required to post on the website under the The 2006 Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, was either inconsistent with internal agency data or reported late.

The departments responsible for inadequately documenting the most funds included Health and Human Services, with $543.8 billion over 27 programs; Veterans Affairs with $64.4 billion over five programs; and Interior, with $5.3 billion over 156 programs.

“Few awards on the website contained information that was fully consistent with agency records,” GAO said, estimating “with 95 percent confidence that between 2 percent and 7 percent of the awards contained information that was fully consistent with agencies' records for all 21 data elements examined” based on 385 awards sampled. “The USASpending.gov data for fiscal year 2012 infrequently approached OMB’s goals for data quality.”

Auditors said OMB failed to clarify requirements for validating and documenting awards, and didn’t ensure that award titles accurately reflected the purpose of the grant.

GAO recommended that the OMB director clarify guidance on reporting and documenting award information and ensure that award data are consistent with agency records.

OMB generally agreed with the recommendations. However, the Millennium Challenge Corporation challenged the recommendations, noting that its grant recipients are foreigners. GAO disagreed that this exempts the agency from full reporting on grants, saying OMB’s guidance is unclear.

(Image via Ismagilov/Shutterstock.com)

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