Congress seeks smoother funding for states

State and local government officials want to simplify how they receive federal funding for technology investments. And a congressional committee wants to help.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy, earlier this month held a hearing to detail states' obstacles to getting more than $2 billion in annual support from federal agencies. Funds are for programs such as Medicaid, child support enforcement, food stamps and juvenile justice. Davis said he is considering a bill to give federal agencies and state governments more flexibility in how funds are transferred.

"We want the states to procure systems in a timely manner with proper federal oversight," Davis said. "Congress has to make sure funds are not wasted on paperwork."

Witnesses said the biggest obstacles to this goal are the procedures for cost allocation and for submitting advance planning documents.
Federal regulations require states to send multiple sets of documents for planning, implementation, progress and additional funding.

Plans and more plans

The cost allocation process requires agencies to submit plans so federal overseers can make sure the money is going where states said it would.

States also have to give federal agencies separate IT plans for the projects, which increases the paperwork burden.

Aldona Valicenti, CIO of Kentucky, said her employees have found 20 cents of every federal dollar goes to filling out federal paperwork.
"The process is an obstacle in the implementation of integrated systems," she said, adding that it combines "unpalatable ingredients of bureaucracy and delay."

Larry Singer, CIO of Georgia, said federal agencies should simplify the grant process by requiring a comprehensive plan rather than a series of plans. He also said annual reviews of projects would be adequate to ensure states are using federal grants appropriately.

"One of the issues the Clinger-Cohen Act focuses on is the outcome of the project," he said. "We are focusing on the wrong end of the process. If projects had an annual review, it would make a lot more sense."

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