Grants LOB managers out to prove consortia model works

While there are no stated goals for agencies to migrate to the three consortia under the Grants Management Line of Business, the agency lead managers for the initiative are strongly optimistic that at least one agency will prove this year that the shared-services provider concept works.

In an effort to ensure success, Charlie Havekost, CIO of the Health and Human Services Department, and Mary Santonastasso, acting division director for National Science Foundation's Division of Grants and Agreement, will meet with agency leaders from the Financial Management LOB project and the Office of Management and Budget next week to figure out how to remove any potential barriers that might stop agencies from using a Grants shared-services provider.

Havekost said he will meet with General Services Administration's Mary Mitchell, the FM LOB agency leader; Stacie Boyd, OMB's portfolio manager; and others to discuss how to make sure data is shared between Grants consortia providers and the Centers of Excellence financial management systems.

'We need standardized touch points so there is feedback into the financial management system,' Havekost said during a lunch in Washington sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council of Fairfax, Va. 'We have to collectively solve this issue, and any other one, so it is not a reason for an agency not to go to a consortia.'

OMB named three consortia providers in February when President Bush sent his fiscal 2007 budget request to Congress.

With about 99 grants management systems across 26 major agencies, OMB hopes to consolidate the number management systems and reduce the amount of money agencies spend on these applications'which for 2006 is about $150 million for development, modernization and enhancement work, Santonastasso said.

The three consortia, led by NSF, the Education Department and HHS's Administration for Children and Families, are developing the business and technical requirements this year with an eye toward agency migrations.

'At the end of this year, we will assess how many agencies have migrated and get the lessons learned from those migrations for others to use,' Santonastasso said. 'Each [consortium] also is working on standards for their customers to use.'

While no migrations are imminent, Santonastasso said NSF is discussing possible moves with a number of agencies. Education also will hold an open house for interested agencies in early April.

Santonastasso added that the model the consortia are considering will be different from the FM and Human Resources LOB shared-services provider one where they compete with each other and the private sector for business. Customer agencies, she said, likely will assess each member of the consortium's capabilities and make their choice, and there could be some cases where an agency picks two consortia because they provide different kinds of grants.

'We are looking for ways to maximize our success,' Havekost said. 'What is the path forward to get to a rational place for grant systems, where there is a smaller number of them and more commonalties among the business processes?'

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