GREAT Act will modernize Grant Reporting in more ways than one
With the aim to make the file folders and file drawers of the Federal Government accessible to as many people as possible, Representative Virginia Foxx introduced the bill H.R. 4887: Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency Act to 115th Congress. The bill is popularly known as GREAT Act and ever since it was introduced, has received support from organizations such as the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) and American Library Association (ALA). It was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives on September 27, 2018 but could not make it out of Congress before the legislative session ended. The bill was reintroduced on January 3, 2019, in the House of Representatives and was passed on January 17, 2019. The bill currently has 15 Cosponsors. Besides granting reporting data recommendations, the bill suggests many modern solutions to manage the data in an organized and effective way.
The federal grantees are presently required to fill out and submit several forms that has duplicative data points in various formats to their grantor agencies. This legislation will ensure that duplicate reporting is avoided and both grantors and grantees are able to access information online and file reports electronically. The new transparency reforms, in recent years, required federal grantees to disclose the data collected to ensure better transparency. The community of grantees sees an opportunity in GREAT Act to enhance the process of grants management to a greater level than before.
Effective data standards will allow the adoption of software and collaborative platforms for data reporting, which other agencies already use for other programs. It will also lead to advanced tech in the future, such as blockchain.
The GREAT Act impacts in the following way:
- The Act will convert federal grant reporting from disconnected documents into open data. The executive branch would require to adopt a standardized data structure for the information grantees must report to agencies. The transformation of outdated documents to open data promises transparency for grant making agencies and the public.
- The Act will also allow grantees to automate their reporting processes, which will lead to reduction in reduce compliance costs.
- It will develop a comprehensive and standardized data set for federal award management.
- It would demand all grantees to report data points electronically. Introduction of electronic and automated data reporting will create a transparent database of grant awardees’ information.
- It will make the reported data openly available to the public.
- It will help agencies to track hundreds of billions of dollars a year in federal grants, which would give them extra time to analyze and manage those programs and their performance.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a leading grant agency, which will be designated after the bill has passed, will plan the implementation of the GREAT Act. The bill requires OMB and the designated agency to issue grant reporting information, after its transformation into open data, on a government-wide website, such as the existing grants.gov portal. Also, each grant-making agency, as suggested in the Act, would begin to collect grant reports using the new data standards within a duration of three years.
The sponsors of the GREAT Act are of the notion that everyone including the federal government, the funding agencies, the grantees, and the public will benefit from the successful implementation of the Act.
The automated compilation and submission of reports to federal agencies will reduce recipient compliance costs. It will create a consolidated data set of post-award reports for federal grant recipient information. Looking at the growing popularity and reach of the GREAT Act, there is a fair chance that it will be passed by the senate as well. However, handling such large chunks of data across multiple organizations might not generate the desired results unless data standards like XBRL and iXBRL are used.
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