Problems With the Dissemination of Information on Federal Assistance Programs

GGD-80-32: Published: Feb 8, 1980. Publicly Released: Feb 8, 1980.

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In an effort to meet the complaints by Federal aid recipients about the scarcity of information available on Federal programs, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Federal Assistance Information Database and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance were reviewed. The database was created to be a complete listing of Federal domestic assistance programs and to serve as the primary source of program information. From this database, information can be obtained by the general public through the Federal Assistance Program Retrieval System and the Catalog. Certain shortcomings were found in the database. Specifically, it was found that many programs are not included in the database and information in the Catalog was not as easy to access as it could be.

As a result of the incompleteness of the database, prospective Federal aid recipients are not being provided with information on all domestic assistance programs as required by Federal law. The database's incompleteness resulted because: (1) the information used to create the database was incomplete to start with and little has been done to complete it; (2) programs are being excluded from the database when they should not be; and (3) all new programs are not being added as soon as they should be. Even with a complete inventory of Federal domestic assistance programs, the usefulness of the inventory to potential Federal aid recipients depends on the ability of the potential recipients to find the program which meets their needs. The present database indexes are not set up to make a search for assistance as easy as possible, nor are they detailed enough to cover all of the activities within a program. To better serve potential aid recipients, the Catalog's subject, functional, and proper name indexes should be folded into one alphabetical keyword index. Such an index should focus on the purposes of the assistance and guide readers to the appropriate assistance through the use of terms familiar to the readers. In addition, specialized catalogs which have not been approved by OMB and which do not use the OMB information database as the source of information have undermined the Catalog as the single authoritative compilation of Federal domestic assistance, and have increased the chances of publishing conflicting program information.

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