The DATA Act Section 5 Pilot Program—A 6th Test Model?

board-361516_1920-3.jpgDid you know the U.S. government awards over $600 billion in federal grant dollars every year? However, with no central repository of grant data across agencies, it’s difficult for grantors and grantees alike to efficiently oversee the entire grant lifecycle, and ensure compliance with reporting requirements.

A government-wide open data structure for grant reporting could simplify such challenges, but how?

Historically, agencies have collected grant-reporting data from recipients using varying formats and processes. Under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) introduced the Section 5 grantee pilot program to uncover if standardizing the data fields and formats across all federal grant recipient reporting would simplify the reporting process. The pilot proved to be a success.

To pinball off such efforts, StreamLink Software, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe teamed up to create a first of its kind grantee reporting program. The goal: to test the use of standardized data to fulfill grant-reporting requirements.

Below, we document key findings from the program, the results are from the 6th test model, and identify the impact open data has on grantee reporting automation.

Standardized Data Streamlines Reimbursement

From October 1, 2016 to September 20, 2017, the EPA awarded Standing Rock three single fiscal-year grants, totaling $1.1 million, for environmental testing and cleanup.

To get reimbursed, the Standing Rock reported its transactions and expenses to the EPA using AmpliFund software instead of relying on document-based forms, such as PDFs. AmpliFund integrated data elements from the Common Data Element Repository (CDER) Library. The benefits?

A standardized data structure housed in a grant management system provided the EPA with direct access to Standing Rock’s transactions and expenses to assure budget and performance requirements were met from the start. Everything was accounted for right in AmpliFund, making it easy for both the EPA and Standing Rock to keep a continuous record of financial expenditures and performance metrics.

That way, when it came time to submit a quarterly reimbursement request, Standing Rock was able to electronically extract data about its transactions, saving time, money and effort.

Streamlining Report Creation

Under the pilot program, Standing Rock was required to compile an annual report for each of the awarded grants.

Instead of having to manually extract financial expenditures from existing technologies and disparate systems, Standing Rock used AmpliFund to create an electronic version of the SF-425 form. AmpliFund sourced the necessary information in compliance with CDER data elements all within one system, instead of Standing Rock pulling from duplicative documents.

Streamlining Performance Reporting

During the pilot, Standing Rock used AmpliFund to track its progress toward meeting programmatic goals and milestones. While a grantor cannot normally see activities undertaken until performance reports are formally submitted, the EPA could monitor financial expenditures and performance metrics in real time with access to AmpliFund.

Thus, when the grant period came to a close, Standing Rock was able to compile and submit performance reports with ease. This was cost-effective for both the EPA and Standing Rock, as everything was automated within a single software system.

With the program now complete, Standing Rock and the EPA are planning to continue using standardized reporting methods to automate the grant-data collection process.

How does your organization access post-award grant reporting? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Interested in learning more about the pilot program? Download our report: Transforming Federal Grant Reporting: Open the Data, Reduce Compliance Costs, and Deliver Transparency

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