OMB reorganizes monitoring of financial assistance grants

The Office of Management and Budget on Thursday announced the creation of a Council on Financial Assistance Reform to enhance efforts to reduce waste in government and to coordinate information outreach to the public on the availability of grants.

In an Oct. 27 memorandum to agencies, OMB Director Jack Lew said the new body was a follow-up to the creation in June of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board, which "underscored the financial assistance community's need for an institutionalized, formal coordination body over federal grants and cooperative agreements. In addition to representing the interests and perspectives of the financial assistance community, this body must also identify how we can make it easier for recipients to learn about and apply for assistance for which they are eligible, as well as to understand what benefits they, and the country as a whole, have received as a result."

The new council replaces the Grants Policy Council, established in 1999, and the Grants Executive Board, established 2004. It is composed of the OMB controller and senior policy officials from nine other agencies, including those administering the largest dollar amounts in grants: the Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Transportation departments.

The council will work with the transparency board and agencies to "foster more efficient and effective federal financial management by coordinating the development and implementation of a standardized business process, data standards, metrics and information technology," Lew wrote. It also will work with stakeholders in the "streamlining and simplification of the financial assistance process by eliminating unnecessary regulatory, reporting and grant-agreement requirements and by increasing flexibilities for satisfying grant requirements"

In addition, "the council will identify emerging issues, challenges and opportunities in grants management and policy, including as appropriate, improvements to the competitive grant-making process," the memo said.

In a Friday blog post, Controller Danny Werfel lauded the move, noting that "more than 25 federal agencies award grants that range from supporting lifesaving research and improving access to health care to fighting corruption and combating terrorism. These grants go to states, local and tribal governments, nonprofits, universities, hospitals, and others -- improving the lives of millions of Americans every year."

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