Skip to main content Skip to Footer

LATEST THINKING


Improve grants management to drive outcomes

Toward better federal health and human services results

Overview

Grants are essential to the realization of important social, healthcare and human service programs across federal, state and local government. They effectively bring together public, commercial and non-profit organizations to collaborate, innovate and provide improved services. However, federal grant-making agencies are facing significant pressure as budgets and resources are stretched further than ever.

Furthermore, demands for greater transparency and improved management are increasing as funding is slowing. Effective grants management can provide the foundation required to help agencies successfully carry out their mission goals and navigate funding and performance pressures. Federal grants-making agencies need to take steps to make improvements across the entire grants management lifecycle to drive better outcomes and optimize funds allocated.

Key Findings

Larger amounts of taxpayer dollars are being allocated to grants to accomplish agency strategic goals and policy objectives. Federal outlays for grants have increased exponentially, from $91 billion in fiscal year 1980 to about $628 billion in fiscal year 2015.1 However, there is little insight into how those investments are delivering results for programs or benefiting citizens.

Movement to greater transparency and accountability has been mandated for federal agencies in the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act). The Act’s May 2017 deadline is looming and federal agencies must take steps now to meet new standards for disclosing expenditures and linking them to contracts, loans and grants.

Improved grants management will enable better health and human services outcomes and help policy makers to more directly influence the missions of agencies that use grants at scale. More effective transparency, performance management, governance and accountability will have a lasting impact on the grants management process and the benefits generated for citizens by grants recipients.

Congressional Research Service, Federal Grants to State and Local Governments: A Historical Perspective on Contemporary Issues https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40638.pdf

Analysis

Today’s public service environment demands that federal agencies manage grant funding and outcome data as a strategic resource. Combining digital analytics technology with process improvements will enhance the grants management function and foster greater transparency and accountability. Steps toward improvement include:

Increase transparency from initiation to after the funding “leaves the door.” Congress typically appropriates funds to federal agencies, but what happens next is not always obvious. This lack of clarity and transparency across the grants lifecycle makes it difficult for agencies to show that they are using taxpayer dollars wisely to support mission goals. In addition, it creates an information gap between the original policy objective and grant results, making it difficult to understand if the grant accomplished its goals and delivered optimal benefits for the administration.

Track program performance and focus on outcomes. Even if improvements are made to track where federal grant dollars are going, there is often no insight into how grant-funded programs are performing. By tracking programmatic outcomes of grant recipients, the federal government can better allocate resources to programs that are yielding the best results.

Improve governance and accountability. Weaknesses in the governance and oversight of the current grants lifecycle include pre-award, award, implementation and closeout stages.Effective governance requires agencies to bring together stakeholders earlier in the grant-making process, so the grant is structured as effectively as possible and key evaluation criteria are established.

2 U.S. Government Accountability Office, FEDERAL GRANTS: Improvements Needed in Oversight and Accountability Processes, http://www.gaonet.gov/products/GAO-11-773T

Recommendations

There are several achievable strategies for improving grants management processes. Combined, these strategies can revolutionize the current outdated and inefficient system.

1

Share dataGrants.gov shares information regarding grant applicants and grantors. This site is an important source, yet there is so much more that can be done with this data to assure that grant funding is being used for its intended purpose.

2

Modernize performance management—Any organization that is a grant recipient should be required to report on its program objectives and outcomes. Adopting performance measurement and management techniques will allow agencies to allocate dollars to where they will be best used.

3

Manage risk—Agencies can improve program integrity by running analytic models that will estimate risks and give leadership an opportunity to take corrective action.

4

Organize for success—Accenture assessed the top six federal grant-giving organizations and found that the structure of each grants management office varies significantly. If there were a common structure for these offices, these entities may be able to more cohesively work together.

"Effective grants management can provide the foundation required to help agencies successfully carry out their mission goals and navigate funding and performance pressures."

Authors
Robert McNamara

Robert McNamara

Managing Director
Accenture Federal Services

Mail to Robert McNamara. This opens a new window. Connect with Robert McNamara's Profile on LinkedIn. This opens a new window.
Loren Osgood

Loren Osgood

Managing Director
Accenture Federal Services

Mail to Loren Osgood. This opens a new window.

Barrett Witkin

Barrett Witkin

Managing Director
Accenture Federal Services

Mail to Barrett Witkin. This opens a new window. Connect with Barrett Witkin's Profile on LinkedIn. This opens a new window.


SUGGESTED CONTENT

Stay In The Know

Receive e-mails from Accenture featuring new content that matches your interests.

Visit the subscription center to make your selections and subscribe to New from Accenture.