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OMB revamps grant management policy

Covering more than 100 pages, the policy overhaul mandates risk reviews, raises audit threshold.

Dec. 26, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Spanning 100 pages in the Federal Register, OMB's grants-management policy revisions enact new due-diligence mandates, family-friendly practices.
Spanning 100 pages in the Federal Register, OMB's grants-management policy revisions enact new due-diligence mandates, family-friendly practices. (Getty Images/Ingram Publishing)

The Office of Management and Budget intends to streamline management and strengthen oversight of hundreds of billions in annual federal grants with a regulatory overhaul published Thursday.

The overhaul, running more than 100 triple-columned pages in the Federal Register, consolidates guidance from eight OMB circulars. Among other features, it requires federal agencies and pass-through entities to review risks posed by a potential recipient before making an award, The new policy also mandates disclosure of conflicts of interest and relevant criminal violations.

The standard threshold for an audit review will rise from $500,000 in annual awards to $750,000. That will eliminate audit requirements from some 5,000 small recipients, saving the federal government $250 million annually, said Jim Taylor, the Labor Department’s chief financial officer, in an OMB-led webinar viewable online.

The new framework encourages universities and other institutions to adopt policies that will help young researchers balance work and family. That will be “a key step” towards resolving an issue that often keeps women from maintaining careers in science, Marty Rubenstein, the National Science Foundation’s CFO, said during the same webinar.

The overhaul, more two years in the making, grows out of separate White House directives aimed at reducing improper payments while getting rid of unneeded paperwork and other administrative burdens. Federal agencies now have six months to draft regulations to implement the changes, which are expected to be in effect by next December.

Officials with several organizations that represent federal grant recipients, such as the National Governors Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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