In an effort to better track the $400 billion in grants it distributes yearly, the Health & Human Service Dept. will launch a new database to track awardees’ compliance and improve information-sharing about grantees that have past performance issues.
The new efforts are in response to an HHS Office of Inspector General report that found obstacles to preventing past under-performing grantees from getting new grants. For example, information available in databases assists staff from awarding agencies in managing grantee risks, but lack of integration poses challenges. Memorandums contain important information about grantee risks, but not all awarding agencies receive them. Awarding agencies lack a systematic method of sharing information about grantee risks, and sharing occurs infrequently.
HHS is the largest grantmaking agency in the federal government. In FY 2014, HHS awarded nearly $402 billion in grants. OIG conducted this study to assess how HHS’s grant-awarding agencies share information with each other about grantees and potential grantees to assess and mitigate risks of poor performance or misuse of grant funds. The performance of individual grants was not reviewed.
Reinventing the Wheel
The new database represents some reinvention of the wheel. Until 2007, the HHS Office of Grants maintained an Alert List. The purpose of the Alert List was to safeguard federal funds by alerting other awarding agencies to the potential risks of awarding funds to these grantees. In 2007, the HHS Office of Grants suspended the use of the Alert List, pending a major redesign to increase internal control over its use and to better support post-award monitoring and oversight. To date, the Alert List has not been reinstated, although HHS still refers to it in policy guidance.
The OIG recommended a better job at data sharing. Specifically, HHS should analyze whether to implement the use of databases that would integrate various sources of existing information on entities applying for or receiving federal funds. For example, the Department of the Treasury’s “Do Not Pay” Web site integrates the HHS List of Excluded Individuals and Entities, the System for Award Management, the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, and the Treasury Offset Program Debt Check. Use of integrated databases could provide risk-relevant information in a more efficient manner than checking numerous separate databases, OIG said.
HHS agreed with the OIG recommendations and said it is in the process of promulgating a new regulation that will require awarding agencies to report: awards that are terminated because of noncompliance with the award terms and conditions; actions to resolve a suspension or debarment proceeding; and any finding that a non-federal entity is not qualified to receive a given award on the basis of prior performance under federal awards.
|HHS FY 2014 Grant Awards by Awarding Agency|
|Awarding Agency||Number of Awards||Percentage of Awards||Dollar Amount of Awards||Percentage of Dollar Amount|
|Office of the Secretary||698||1%||$428,752,444||<1%|