Discretionary Grants:

Opportunities To Improve Federal Discretionary Award Practices

HRD-86-108: Published: Sep 15, 1986. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal management of discretionary assistance programs, specifically the policies and practices agency officials use to decide which eligible applicants receive awards and how much they receive.

GAO found that: (1) most federal discretionary grant programs have competitive processes to solicit and review applications; (2) nearly two-thirds attempt to solicit applications from all eligible applicants; and (3) over three-fourths use persons from outside the program office to provide an independent perspective in the review of applications. GAO believes that the discretionary grant process could be strengthened in many programs to enhance competition and promote accountability for award decisions through: (1) more rigorous review of unsolicited applications; (2) internal review of decisions restricting the scope of applicant solicitation; (3) the use of independent reviews; and (4) managerial accountability for deviation from reviewers' recommendations in the award decision process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The PCMI "Discretionary Grants" publication did not directly adopt the recommendation. However, the publication advised agencies to use multiple solicitations. No options were given to the agencies to restrict solicitation. With regard to non-use of independent reviews, special procedures were advised during the decision making process to refer decisionmaking to a higher authority.

    Recommendation: The Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), through the President's Council on Management Improvement (PCMI), should work with federal agencies to require written justification reviewable by high-level agency officials for grant award practices that restrict widespread solicitation of all eligible applicants, and that do not use at least some independent officials outside the program office to review applications.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The PCMI "Discretionary Grants" publication implements the recommendation as stated.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, through PCMI, should work with federal agencies to require program managers to provide written justification for award decisions that deviate from reviewers' recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The PCMI "Discretionary Grants" publication implements the recommendation as stated.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, through PCMI, should work with federal agencies to require approval, at a level higher than the program managers, for funding unsolicited applications.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The PCMI "Discretionary Grants" publication implements the recommendation as stated.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, through PCMI, should recognize the discretionary grant award process as a potentially vulnerable area for review under the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA).

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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