Software targets e-delivery of grant services

Software targets e-delivery of grant services

One program is designed to administer large grant programs at agencies, while the other helps agencies seek funding from other agencies

BY PATRICIA DAUKANTAS | GCN STAFF

A law that takes effect this May has spurred two companies to introduce software for electronic processing of grant applications.

FreeBalance eGrants from FreeBalance Inc. of Ottawa is for use by grant applicants. Oracle Corp.'s browser-based Oracle Grants Proposal application aims to help government organizations themselves apply for grants.

The 1999 Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act requires agencies that administer more than 600 grant programs to devise electronic management for them.

Customizable software

The Grants Management Committee of the Chief Financial Officers Council is coordinating the government's implementation of the law, said Elizabeth Phillips of the Office of Grants and Acquisition Management at the Health and Human Services Department. The committee maintains a Web site about the new law, at www.financenet.gov/financenet/fed/cfo/grants/grants.htm.

FreeBalance surveyed a number of U.S. and Canadian granting agencies about their common tasks and unique procedures, said Gordon Graham, the vice president of marketing. He called eGrants a customizable off-the-shelf product.

The software, which runs on any server supporting Java2 Enterprise Edition, automates workflow and incorporates customizable reporting and accountability procedures, Graham said. For example, agencies could choose to protect information with user names and passwords, a public-key infrastructure or biometric authentication.

The Economic Development Agency of Canada is installing eGrants, Graham said. The implementation lets applicants save a work in progress and gives each applicant a unique confirmation number for tracking. It routes applications for approval, periodically running a rules engine to catch missing or mismatched data. EGrants also routes approved grant applications to the agency's financial management system.

Pricing for eGrants software, services and support will be on a project-by-project basis, Graham said, but the package will probably start around $200,000.

Agencies can also use Oracle Grants Proposal to tracks their own funding proposals throughout the application process.

The Oracle software, for example, would help state and local governments apply for federal money, said Wayne Bobby, national director for finance and administrative solutions in Oracle's public sector applications group.

A useful app

Federal agencies seeking dollars from other federal sources could also use the app, said Frank Bishop, vice president of development for Oracle's public sector applications group.

Oracle Grants Proposal has a set of forms for creating proposals, Bishop said. The software routes drafts for approval and tailors security to individual users. It is a companion to Oracle's existing Grants Management software, which has been renamed Grants Accounting. The new app imports data into Grants Accounting after funding is approved.

Both Oracle applications run on top of an Oracle database on Unix and Microsoft Windows NT platforms. Grants Proposal sells for $3,995 per user.

Contact FreeBalance at 703-351-5244 and Oracle at 650-506-7000.

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