GAO is charged with monitoring the performance and progress achieved by Grants.gov over its lifetime and its latest report was released earlier this month. The highlights include:
- Agencies are being charged by Grants.gov based on their size and not their use of Grants.gov itself. This means that agencies like HUD (which is very large) is charged more than 2.6 times the fee levied on NEH (which is a much smaller agency), despite the fact that their use of Grants.gov is about equivalent to each other.
- The Grants.gov PMO doesn’t report some important costs, which means that agencies have trouble understanding how much they should expect to pay for particular kinds of services.
- This also means that Grants.gov doesn’t charge agencies for all known costs, meaning that some agencies subsidize the use of Grants.gov by other agencies.
- Funding from agencies is received at unpredictable times — and often later than really needed — meaning that the Grants.gov PMO cannot sufficiently plan investments and improvements.
- Accountability for governance of Grants.gov is split between the PMO, the Grants Executive Board (GEB), and HHS’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). It’s unclear how the GEB’s input is used to set Grants.gov’s future direction, and who is responsible for what.
- Grants.gov’s performance metrics haven’t been updated in a long time, and may not give an accurate representation of system performance.
The report also includes this note of optimism, though:
“A new federal grants governance model under OMB review would merge various Grants.gov governance entities and serve as the federal grants advisory body responsible for establishing the direction for and coordinating all governmentwide grants initiatives, including Grants.gov. As a preliminary, concept document, it is understandable that it contains few implementation details; however, the proposal lacks even an overview of several critical elements, such as how grants initiatives would be managed as IT investments.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how Grants.gov got to this point, take a look through this blog’s archives.