Health and Human Services:

Documentation of Funding Decisions for Child Abuse and Neglect Grants Inadequate

HRD-87-69: Published: May 22, 1987. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Human Development Services (OHDS) discretionary grant funding for National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect projects, focusing on the extent to which OHDS: (1) selected and rejected grant applications out of ranking order without written justification; and (2) selected grant applications for noncompetitive review without written justification.

GAO found that: (1) OHDS approved 129 of the 234 full grant applications during fiscal years (FY) 1984 and 1985; (2) of the 105 applications not funded, OHDS noncompetitively reviewed 3 without written justification; (3) of the 102 applications that OHDS competitively reviewed, it rejected 9 out of ranking order without written justification; (4) OHDS rejected 5 competitively reviewed applications with vague and brief written justifications; and (5) OHDS rejected 46 preapplications out of ranking order and selected 39 preapplications out of ranking order, with inadequate or no written justification. GAO also found that OHDS did not properly maintain: (1) official files for rejected applications; (2) documentation indicating the resolution of reviewers' concerns and recommendations; or (3) documentation summarizing the reviewers' comments and recommendations. In addition, GAO found that OHDS failed to address documentation issues in a 1986 memorandum on grant review policies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In FY 1987, OHDS began to provide written justification for all applications not selected for funding, which ranked higher than the lowest ranked application selected for funding in each priority area. Unfunded applications ranked lower than the lowest ranked, funded application would have documentation in the decision memoranda, as required, according to OHDS.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Assistant Secretary of Human Development Services to prepare written justifications for all rejections, as required by OHDS and HHS grant administration manuals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since becoming aware that the 3-year record retention requirement for rejected applications was still in effect, OHDS took steps to implement this requirement.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Assistant Secretary for Human Development Services to prepare official files for all applications rejected for funding and retain those files for at least 3 years after grant awards are made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OHDS issued revised guidance on the coordinated discretionary funds program (CDP) which emphasized that, before awarding grant funds, all substantial issues identified by grant reviewers must be resolved before grant funds are awarded and that documentation relating to the resolution of the issues, must be included in the official grant file.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Assistant Secretary for Human Development Services to withhold funds from grantees until documentation is included in the official grant files showing that all negotiation points raised during the review process have been considered and resolved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OHDS issued revised guidance on CDP, in late June 1988, to clarify the methods and terms used in the review of CDP applications, the content of each grant award request, and the processing activities of the responsible OHDS program offices. OHDS reported that improvements included training for panel chairpersons on the value of detailed documentation and revised instructions and forms.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Assistant Secretary for Human Development Services to examine existing policies requiring documentation for grant award decisions and determine whether the required documentation ensures fair and objective consideration for all grant applications.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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