Recovery Blog

Reducing Reporting Burden

Posted in Recipient reporting by Recovery.gov on October 17, 2012

Filling out government paperwork can be repetitive, time-consuming, and costly to those who receive federal funds. An oft-heard query, and complaint, from recipients of government funds:  How many times do I have to submit the same information to different government agencies?

That’s a legitimate complaint. Indeed, it can be a pain to fill out even a single government report, as anyone who’s prepared one knows. But when confronted with the prospect of submitting multiple reports on the same government award—sometimes using different paper and electronic formats—it can be downright maddening.

The Recovery Board has spent more than three years in the data trenches, collecting spending reports from recipients of Recovery Act funds.  Some recipients also are required to file similar reports with other agencies—and they are really not all that happy with that bureaucratic requirement. And, frankly, we don’t blame them. It would seem more sensible to consolidate government reporting requirements so that recipients could submit reports to a single collection system.

With that in mind, the Recovery Board will be testing whether a centralized system of data collection and warehousing would save recipients and government agencies money and time. We are calling this pilot project the Grants Reporting Information Project, or GRIP for short. GRIP will be modeled after the reporting system the Board created for the Recovery program.

GRIP will collect financial data from recipients of non-Recovery grant awards made by several agencies.  The recipients include seven universities, a community college, the State of Nebraska, and a local city in Maryland.  The agencies include the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing, Interior, and Justice; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Science Foundation; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and the Office of Naval Research.

Test recipients will submit their reports to Grants.FederalReporting.gov. The website is an offshoot of FederalReporting.gov, the password-protected site developed with Environmental Protection Agency technology to gather spending data from Recovery Act recipients for the past three years. EPA has worked closely with the Board in developing the GRIP project.

GRIP data will be collected through November 9. Once the reports are in, participating agencies will evaluate the data reports for accuracy, completeness, and compatibility with existing financial reporting systems. If this proof of concept model proves feasible, we would next sponsor a full pilot project in which agencies would use the centralized system over a more extended period.

This could end up being a big deal if this initial pilot project suggests significant efficiencies and savings. Once the results are in, I will report the findings in this blog.

– Michael Wood, Executive Director, Recovery Board

DOJ’s Stimulus Reporting Scofflaws

Posted in Accountability, Recipient reporting by Recovery.gov on July 17, 2012

The new list is out on Recovery Act recipients that failed to file quarterly spending reports as required by law and it’s a bit surprising.

Nearly 46 percent of the Recovery scofflaws, it turns out, received grants from the Department of Justice, the nation’s principal law enforcement agency. For the most recent quarter, 303 reports were listed on the Recovery Board’s Wall of Shame, our nickname for the list of non-compliers compiled on Recovery.gov. Of those, 139 involve grants issued by the Justice Department to cities, counties, police departments, sheriff’s offices and others.

Some of these law enforcement agencies received grants under the federal COPS program, which promotes community policing in state, local, territory and tribal law enforcement agencies. The reasons for non-compliance varied, according to the Justice Department. Some recipients said they did not have the personnel available to fill out reports and submit them to the Recovery Board. Others experienced technical difficulties, and some simply said their failure was unintentional.

Big and small law enforcement agencies failed to report, including the City of Pittsburgh’s police department. It blamed technical problems and failed to submit reports for the last two quarters on its use of a $144,000 COPS grant.

There was some good news, however: Fewer and fewer recipients of Recovery Act funds want to be featured on the Wall of Shame. For the quarter ending March 31, recipients submitted 138,814 spending reports to the Board. Of the 303 reports not filed—the lowest number in the history of the program—most were one-time offenders. The missing reports involve nearly $1.2 billion in Recovery awards.

Here’s a glimpse at some recipients that failed to report to various agencies:

  • The City of Richmond, CA, failed to report in three consecutive quarters on its use of a $4.3 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. Its explanation, according to DHS: “None given.’’
  • Stephentown Regulation Services LLC, Stephentown, NY, did not submit a report for two quarters on a $43.1 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. The reason, according to DOE: “Recipient declared bankruptcy.’’
  • The office of the Arizona Attorney General did not submit a report on a $2.9 million grant from the Justice Department. The recipient said its failure was unintentional.
  • The City of Fairfield, CA, failed to report on $4 million in grants from the Federal Transit Administration. The FTA said it will suspend the grant payments if the city does not submit a report in the next quarter.
  • The Milwaukee County Transit System said it forgot to submit a report on its use of a $25,682,975, grant, according to the FTA, which plans to suspend the grant payments if the transit system fails to file a report in the next quarter.
  •  Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation failed to submit a report on a $3.1 million contract issued by the Social Security Administration. The SSA said that “the individual [in Northrop Grumman] responsible for reporting on behalf of the recipient indicated he forgot the due date for the report.”

Michael Wood, Executive Director, Recovery Board

Shaming the Scofflaws

Posted in Accountability, Recipient reporting by Recovery.gov on March 28, 2012

We like to call it the “Wall of Shame.’’

That’s the nickname we’ve given to the list of recipients who fail to submit quarterly spending reports as required by the Recovery Act. Each quarter, after spending reports are filed, the Office of Management and Budget provides the Recovery Board with the names of recipients who failed to comply with the law. Federal agencies that distribute funds for contracts, grants and loans certify the accuracy of these so-called non-compliers.

Oversight of spending is an important function of the Recovery Board.  If recipients don’t file reports detailing how they spent their Recovery funds and how many jobs were funded, then we can’t report to the American public on how those tax dollars were used.

First, a little history would help. Early on in the Recovery program, non-compliance was a bigger problem. In our first reporting period ending in September 2009, recipients failed to submit 4,359 reports.

What to do? The Board decided that if recipients would thumb their noses, then it made sense to point the finger at them. We established a quarterly posting of non-compliers on Recovery.gov.

The Board, of course, was not the only federal agency concerned with the non-compliance issue. In April 2010, the President turned up the heat on non-compliant recipients, issuing a get-tough directive to agencies that distribute Recovery funds. In a nutshell, the agencies were directed “wherever authorized and appropriate’’ to terminate awards, reclaim funds, and initiate suspension and debarment proceedings against violators.

The pressure seems to have worked.  In the quarter ending December 31, recipients filed 171,304 reports with the Recovery Board.  Only 418 reports were not submitted and most were one-time offenders, according to the latest compliance figures. Agencies continue pressing recipients to file their reports, in some cases withholding future payments.

Still, the excuses for non-compliance come fast and furious. One federal agency said that a company with $4 million in contracts didn’t file because its officials were “out of the office.” Other recipients blamed layoffs, firings, sickness and retirements for their failures.  Many recipients, contacted by the awarding agencies, cited technical and administrative issues. In some cases, however, the answer was really quite simple:  The recipients acknowledged missing the reporting deadline.

-- Michael Wood, Executive Director, Recovery Board

National Endowment for the Arts Closes Books on Recovery Awards

Posted in Agency News, Recipient reporting by Recovery.gov on February 27, 2012

Having distributed $50 million of Recovery funds among more than 700 recipients, and with all projects now complete, the NEA becomes the second federal agency to conclude its Recovery Act activities. (The Smithsonian Institution was first, in July 2011.)

As it normally does with program funding, the NEA divided its awards into two categories:

  • 60 percent were grants awarded on a competitive basis to nonprofit arts and related organizations 
  • 40 percent was awarded to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations.

637 grants were made to nonprofit art and related organizations for a combined $30 million. State/regional arts commissions received a total 56 grants involving approximately $20 million.

All grants were specifically intended to help the nonprofit arts sector weather declines in philanthropic and other support during the recession.

An Update on Recipient Reports

Posted in Recipient reporting by Recovery.gov on February 1, 2012

Time to update the numbers:

On Monday, Recovery.gov posted the most recent quarterly spending data submitted by recipients of Recovery Act contracts, grants and loans.

For the quarter ending December 31, the Recovery Board received 168,265 reports from recipients who had submitted prior quarterly reports.  Additionally, we received 2,928 reports for new awards.

What’s more, recipients reported funding a total of 213,094 jobs in the quarter, the lowest number listed since recipients began submitting Recovery spending data in October 2009.

As I explained in my post of January 27, the reasons for the lower job numbers probably relate to the winter season, traditionally a slower period for construction projects, and the completion of more than half of the Recovery awards.

Most of the jobs funded in the past quarter — 172,242 — came from grants issued by various federal agencies.  Contract awards funded 30,696 jobs, and the loan program, 10,156.

Awards from the Department of Energy funded more than 40,000 jobs in the quarter.  According to the recipient reports, the Department of Education was next in line, funding nearly 37,000 jobs. The most jobs were funded in California (24,035); Texas (12,337); and New York (10,645).

Over the life of the program, established in February 2009, federal agencies have awarded $276.4 billion in contracts, grants and loans. Recipients reported receiving $201.2 billion during that period.

You can get even more information on spending data by visiting Recovery.gov and clicking on “Where Is The Money Going?” at the top of any page.

Michael Wood, Executive Director, Recovery Board

Recovery Board Hits the Mark on Recipient Reports

Posted in Recipient reporting by Recovery.gov on January 27, 2012

The following post was written by Michael Wood, the Executive Director of the Recovery Board

Some argue that the federal government seldom does anything correctly.

I beg to differ.

On Monday, January 30, for the 10th consecutive reporting period, the Recovery Board will meet its legal requirement for posting spending data on Recovery.gov from recipients of Recovery Act funds. The data, contained in recipient reports, will cover the quarter ending December 31.

The Recovery Act requires recipients to report data each quarter. The process requires agencies to review the quality of recipient submissions, and then the Recovery Board publishes the data on Recovery.gov. The data is posted on the 30th day following the end of the quarterly reporting period — and I am proud to say we have always met that deadline, even when there were major obstacles in the early days of the program.

Although the exact numbers will be updated for posting on Monday, I can tell you now that we collected more than 170,000 quarterly reports from prime recipients and sub-recipients of Recovery awards. The job numbers will be lower than previous quarters, probably the result of the winter months and the slowdown in construction and the completion of more than half the Recovery awards.

The numbers indicate that most of the contracts, grants and loans, valued at $275 billion, have been awarded to recipients, although not all of the money has been spent.

Project Spotlight – Northwest Youth Corps Programs

Posted in Recipient reporting, Recovery Projects/Awards by Recovery.gov on August 15, 2011


Recipient: Northwest Youth Corps Program

Award Amount: $227,203
The recipient reported that these Recovery funds would be used to:

  • Offer youth employment and development opportunities
  • Create 29 work weeks (432 hours) for 11 youth participants ages 16-19 and two adult crew leaders to participate in Conservation Corps Programs
  • Fund youth stipends and transportation costs
  • Purchase tools and camping equipment

Crewmember work involved maintenance within the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest in Washington. Reportable outcomes at project completion included:

  • 32.97 miles of trail maintained
  • 874 drainage structures installed
  • 9 stream crossings
  • 1,030 feet of turnpike built
  • 10 foot bridge built
  • 400 feet of puncheon built
  • 125 feet of trail decommissioned
  • 52 feet of retaining wall built
  • 8 check dams installed
  • 17 logs bucked out of the trail system

Project Status: Completed

To learn more about the project, check out the Project Summary or enter your zip code to find Recovery projects near you.

Project Spotlight – Dam Replacement in the Everglades National Park

Posted in Recipient reporting, Recovery Projects/Awards by Recovery.gov on July 11, 2011


Recipient: Jay Cashman, Inc.

Award Amount: $6,119,056
The recipient reported that these Recovery funds would be used to:

  • Construction two new dam structures to stop the    uncontrolled flow of seawater flushing into and out of the    Everglades.
  • Demolition of the failed existing dam structures
  • Clearing and removal of mangroves
  • Planting of new plants upon completion of the backfill
  • Replacement of rip rap
  • Installation of new channel marker piles and mooring piles
  • Installation of an access gangway and ramp for passage over the dam

Project Status: Completed

To see how funds were distributed between the project’s prime and sub recipients and to learn more about the project, check out the Award Summary or enter your zip code to find Recovery projects near you.

Project Spotlight – Nevada Public Transportation Improvements

Posted in Recipient reporting, Recovery Projects/Awards by Recovery.gov on July 5, 2011


Recipient: Nevada Department of Transportation

Award Amount: $7,350,247
These Recovery funds will be used to:

  • Purchase 42 new buses to replace buses that have      exceeded their useful life.
  • Construct a transit fueling and storage facility, as well as      22 new bus shelters
  • Construct a fiber optic communications system
  • Purchase fareboxes and automatic vehicle locators
  • Provide operating funds to run transit services

Project Status: More than 50% completed

To learn more about the project, check out the Project Summary or  enter your zip code to find Recovery projects near you.

Recipients Report for the Sixth Time

Posted in Recipient reporting by Recovery.gov on February 9, 2011

On January 14, 2011, recipients of Recovery Act contracts, grants, and loans completed reporting for the period October 1 through December 31, 2010.  From January 14 through the 29th, federal agencies and recipients reviewed the reports and recipients made changes and corrections.  On January 30, the Recovery Board posted the recipient data on Recovery.gov — the sixth quarter that the data has been successfully collected and published in compliance with the Recovery Act.  There are 10 more reporting quarters prior to the Board’s scheduled expiration in September 2013.

The quarterly reporting cycle is unique in a number of ways.  First, it allows the data to be available on Recovery.gov in almost real time, providing an unprecedented level of transparency.  The reports provide detailed information on the expenditures of federal stimulus dollars and jobs funded under the program.  Finally, there has been a high rate of reporting compliance because the data is posted publicly and in a timely fashion.

Looking forward, the Recovery Board is evaluating ways to extend its recipient reporting model and the technologies developed for reporting  to other federal spending programs.

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