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.2 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