GRIP Demonstrates Strides in Compliance Automation and Improved Grant Reporting
If passed, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) will create standards for the aggregation and comparison of federal spending data, as well as open up the information to the public and watchdogs. These data standards will allow for greater transparency and fiscal accountability across agencies and award recipients.
Currently, U.S. spending information is fragmented; siloed by agency with no compatible formats in place to standardize. This results in administrative inefficiencies, data inconsistencies and duplicative systems. To test the effectiveness of a centralized financial reporting system, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (Recovery Board) teamed up with StreamLink Software and 10 federal grant award recipients on the Grant Reporting Information Project (GRIP) pilot program.
The pilot proved that compliance automation, and improved performance and fiscal tracking are a real possibility for government grant reporting.
Grant Compliance Automation
One of the benefits of the DATA Act is that “agencies and recipients will be able to automate time-consuming reporting processes.” GRIP demonstrated how this would work in several ways.
Bulk or Batch XML Filing: The ability for bulk or batch XML filing of reports (instead of paper forms and spreadsheets) reduced manual submission effort, as much of the data could be generated through automated systems.
In the GRIP pilot, StreamLink Software’s grant management system, AmpliFund, was the middleware software used to generate these XML reports by four recipient participants. These awardees were able to submit multiple grant reports via one XML file transfer, which pulled information directly from their existing management systems.
Pre-Population of Reporting Fields: Reporting fields, such as agency information, funding amount, project type, award date, and recipient name and address, were pre-populated using open data from USASpending.gov and the System for Award Management (SAM).
Machine-Generated Award Identifiers: Unique award identifiers (UAIDs) were algorithmically produced using machine-generated data like agency code, award type and fiscal year. These UAIDs could improve grant reporting standardization if implemented government-wide.
Performance and Fiscal Tracking
At the federal level, the centralization of grant data will put a checks and balances system in place, in which numbers can be fact-checked between agencies to eliminate fraud and error. If made publicly available, this data would eliminate the need to produce ad hoc stakeholder-requested reports, significantly decreasing administrative time.
In addition, with passage of the DATA Act, Bruce Lowe, program manager at CGI Federal, predicts the onset of performance-based reporting. To prepare for this, objectives and outcomes need to be integrated into agency report requirements, and grant recipients need to start tracking results now.
AmpliFund is designed to help nonprofits and public sector organizations track the entire grant lifecycle from recipient to distribution to post-award compliance. This gives greater visibility into where federal funds are going and how they are being used, making performance-based reporting a reality.
A Commitment to Improvement
As an organization, StreamLink Software is committed to helping the federal government structure and standardize the way its data is reported to improve efficiencies, increase transparency and better track spending.
For more on the GRIP pilot, download our summary report. We’ll also have representatives onsite at Data Transparency 2013, if you’re interested in learning more.