A new bill will streamline federal grant reporting by replacing outdated documents with open data, increase transparency from grantmaking agencies, and reduce compliance costs.
WASHINGTON – Rep. Jimmy Gomez D-C.A., and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., this week introduced the bipartisan Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act that will streamline federal grant reporting by replacing outdated documents with open data, increase transparency from grantmaking agencies, and reduce compliance costs. Reps. Gomez and Foxx, as well as stakeholders, issued the following statements in support of the GREAT Act:
Representative Jimmy Gomez:
“It is no secret that the federal government needs to modernize the way it conducts business. By leveraging technology, we can make the federal grant reporting process more transparent and efficient while breaking down barriers for new federal grant applicants that seek funding opportunities. That’s why we’re introducing the GREAT Act, which will help level the playing field by simplifying grant reporting data into searchable open data. With a more equitable and streamlined process, the GREAT Act will help us increase access to grants and open new opportunities for recipients.”
Representative Virginia Foxx:
“As a former educator and college president, I know first-hand the difficulties federal grant applicants face when it comes to compliance with grant reporting. The task is cumbersome, laborious, and laden with inefficiency. That’s why we’ve introduced the GREAT Act. The GREAT Act will simplify the grant reporting process for grantors and grantees by transforming standard information – used in reporting and compliance – into searchable open data. Ultimately, this will result in greater transparency and reduce compliance costs for non-profits, universities and many other stakeholders.
Since the U.S. Government awards more than $600 billion every year to state and local governments, agencies, and a wide variety of other organizations, it is imperative that we are accountable for every tax dollar awarded. By making the collected data open and searchable, small businesses will no longer be forced to spend meaningful man-hours on filling out duplicative paperwork and instead will be empowered to focus on their core objectives. Hardworking American taxpayers deserve to know where their tax dollars are going – and the GREAT Act will not only make that goal possible, but realized.”
Hudson Hollister, Executive Director, the Data Coalition:
“In its current form, grant reporting is overly complex and riddled with flaws. The GREAT Act will solve this problem. The proposed legislation will require the adoption of a government-wide open data structure for all the information grantees report. Ultimately, replacing documents with data will alleviate compliance burdens for the grantee community, provide instant insights for grantor agencies and Congress, and enable easy access to data for oversight, analytics, and program evaluation.”
Ann Ebberts, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Government Accountants:
“The Association of Government Accountants (AGA) supports the technological transformation of federal grant reporting. Technology can reduce manual reporting burdens and complexity for the 70,000 financial management professionals we represent at federal, state, local, and tribal governments, many of whom work on grant compliance and audits. From 2015 to 2017, we partnered with the White House OMB and the Department of Health and Human Services to support the DATA Act pilot program which showed how data standardization can transform grant reporting. The collaborative process leveraged by OMB and Treasury for the progress made in DATA Act reporting provides a model that can be built on and expanded for this grant reporting and transparency effort. We are pleased and eager to work with Congress, the executive branch, and our members to achieve the next step: the creation of a single, government-wide data structure to give all grantees certainty and the potential to automate.”
Richard Fenger, Open Government Subcommittee Co-chair, Federal Demonstration Partnership (The FDP is a collaboration between Federal granting agencies and institutions that carry out research grants, including universities and other non-profit organizations):
“We all share the desire to reduce administrative burden and minimize costs, while ensuring that we maximize the use of public funds for their intended purposes. Data standardization efforts around key data elements that foster transparency will be essential towards achieving efficiency. The GREAT Act is clearly a positive step beyond simply extending previous transparency efforts, and will certainly lead to future efficiencies. In due course, the GREAT Act will help move information from a costly form-based ecosystem, over to a collection of standardized core data elements independent from of the forms where they reside.”
Shelly Slebrch, Executive Director, the National Grants Management Association:
“Streamlining requirements for reporting across the Federal government is essential to moving grant reporting forward. New data technologies are part of that solution.”
Specifically the GREAT Act:
*Requires the creation of a comprehensive and standardized data structure, or “taxonomy”, covering all data elements reported by recipients of federal awards, including both grant and cooperative agreements.
*Tasks the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) with implementation.
*Issues guidance to grantmaking agencies on how to leverage new technologies and implement the new data standards into existing reporting practices with minimum disruption.
*Amends the Single Audit Act to provide for grantee audits to be reported in an electronic format consistent with the data standards.
*Provides exceptions and restrictions by requiring each grantmaking agency to begin collecting grant reports using the new data standards within three years.
*Ensures that no data outside the scope of grant reporting will be collected and that personally-identifiable or otherwise sensitive information will not be published.