Recovery Act: Opportunities Exist to Increase the Public's Understanding of Recipient Reporting on HUD Programs
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) has provided about $6 billion in grants for three Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs that fund housing or community development. As of March 31, 2010, HUD's Capital Fund awarded nearly $3 billion in grants to 3,134 public housing agencies, the Community Development Block Grant-Recovery (CDBG-R) awarded about $1 billion to 1,167 recipients, and the Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP) awarded $2.25 billion to 52 state housing finance agencies. The act requires recipients to report specific information on fund use. Recipients began reporting in October 2009. This information is publicly available on Recovery.gov, the official Recovery Act Web site. As requested, for these three HUD programs, the report (1) examines what information recipients are required to report as a part of their descriptions of funded projects, and (2) assesses the extent to which descriptions of a representative sample of 219 grants in Recovery.gov are transparent in providing a basic understanding of grant activities and expected outcomes. GAO reviewed requirements for reporting in the act and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and HUD guidance.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Housing and Urban Development||To increase public understanding of how Recovery funds are used and concerns over the cost of reporting, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in consultation with OMB, should provide clarification of OMB FederalReporting.gov guidance (1) so that it better conveys the Recovery Act requirement for recipients to report key information for the specific projects and activities funded, and (2) so that, for each program, it defines key terms (project, primary place of performance, and subrecipient primary place of performance).||
In October 2010 HUD's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) team sent a memo to HUD program offices emphasizing the need for HUD to demonstrate (1) insistence on recipient compliance with reporting requirements as a necessary condition to achieve transparancy, and (2)the importance of prompt enforcement actions in response to noncompliance with the reporting requirements. Additionally, HUD's ARRA team began sending program liaisons excel reports that clearly identify grantee reported narrative descriptions with a high risk of being insufficiently informative. As a result of these steps, HUD helped increase the likelihood that recipients enter clear and complete information about funded projects and activities.
|Department of Housing and Urban Development||To increase public understanding of how Recovery funds are used and concerns over the cost of reporting, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in consultation with OMB, should consider options for more effectively reviewing the content of narrative descriptions submitted by recipients into FederalReporting.gov in a targeted and cost-effective manner to help ensure that recipients have entered clear and complete information about the funded projects and activities.||
In December 2010, HUD began issuing updated program-specific guidance. The guidance includes clarification on how projects and activities should be described to improve transparency. Additionally, the guidance clarifies how key terms, such as "project" and "place of performance" should be described. As a result of HUD's clarified program-specific guidance, HUD helped to increase the likelihood that narrative descriptions would more transparently convey the location and type of work funded.
|Department of Housing and Urban Development||To increase public understanding of how Recovery funds are used and concerns over the cost of reporting, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in consultation with OMB, should encourage recipients to leverage other sources of existing information, such as by providing links to agency or recipient Web sites, to further enhance the transparency of the information they enter in FederalReporting.gov.||
HUD took steps to improve its guidance related to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) reporting. HUD's 2012 and 2013 program-specific guidance emphasized the importance of providing clear and complete information on the award's purpose, scope and nature of activities, outcomes and status of activities. Recognizing that there are character limitations on narrative responses, HUD also advised grantees to include the grantee's website address and any additional websites that provide detailed grant or project level information.