Understanding Roles and Achieving Objectives

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For many organizations, approaching and working with a Federal agency may seem overwhelming. When an award is made, a Federal program officer and a grants management officer will be assigned to oversee your project as it is implemented. Your program officer and grants management officer are your best resources for navigating unfamiliar territory as you implement your funded project. They are available to provide assistance for everything from setting up a new program to addressing closeout issues once a funded project has concluded. Project performance will be evaluated based on your progress regarding stated goals and objectives and fiscal performance. You will be required to provide project performance information at regular reporting intervals as specified in your grant or cooperative agreement. Tracking project activities, outputs, and timelines is critical to meeting your project goals and objectives.

Your roles and responsibilities revolve around the details of your project.

As a grant recipient (or potential grant recipient), your responsibilities are to successfully complete your approved project within the agreed-upon budget and time frame. In order to accomplish your project goals and ensure compliance, you should:

  • Develop and implement work plans that will ensure that the services and activities included in the approved application are achieved in an efficient, effective, and timely manner.
  • Submit plans and procedures for the issuance of subawards for Federal approval according to the specified timeline and prior to the issuance of any such subawards (if subaward plans and programs are part of grant requirements).
  • Ensure that key project staff members attend and participate in Federal funding agency-sponsored workshops and meetings.
  • Develop a reporting system and submit the completed required performance and financial reports on time, as required by your cooperative agreement.
  • Work collaboratively with agency officials and other intermediary organizations.

It is important to develop a good working relationship with Federal program officers and grant management officers who have oversight responsibility for your funded project. Open, clear, and consistent communication with your program officer and grants management officer will enhance your ability to effectively implement your program in compliance with the terms of your cooperative agreement.

There are two Federal officers that oversee your grant.

There are usually two Federal entities that play a role in overseeing your grant: the grant management officer and the program officer. The grants management officer (GMO) is the official responsible for the business management and other non-programmatic aspects of an award. These activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Evaluating grant applications for administrative content and compliance with statutes, regulations, and guidelines
  • Negotiating awards
  • Providing consultation and technical assistance to applicants and recipients, including interpretation of grants administration policies and provisions
  • Administering and closing out grants

The GMO, or an assigned grants management specialist working on behalf of the GMO, is usually responsible for receiving and acting on requests for prior approval or for changes in the terms and conditions of the award. The GMO is the only official authorized to obligate the agency to the expenditure of Federal funds or to change the funding, duration, or other terms and conditions of an award.

Program officers (POs) have a vested interest in the success of your program and are responsible for the programmatic, scientific, and/or technical aspects of assigned applications and grants. They have the following responsibilities related to the grant:

  • Providing programmatic technical assistance
  • Monitoring performance of the project/program, including reviewing progress reports and making site visits to observe operations
  • Performing other activities complementary to those of the GMO (The PO and the GMO work as a team in many of these activities.)
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Federal agency monitoring includes on-site review, audits, and reporting.

In addition to review of reports and telephone contact, Federal awarding agencies may conduct site visits to your project. Program officers and grants management officers will contact project staff with questions and concerns that may arise. Site visits allow Federal staff to observe the project underway and conduct any necessary on-site review of records.

Reporting

As a grant recipient, you are responsible for managing and monitoring each project, program, subaward, function, or activity supported by the award. Recipients are generally required to submit the original and two copies of performance reports. Refer to your award package for details on format requirements for performance reports. Many programs are now implementing standard Performance Progress Report forms, and some programs are working with OMB to customize those forms in order to collect relevant performance data. When required, performance reports generally contain brief information regarding each award, including:

  • A comparison of actual accomplishments with the goals and objectives established for the period, the findings of the investigator, or both (as appropriate, and whenever the output of programs or projects can be readily quantified, such quantitative data should be related to cost data for computation of unit costs.)
  • Reasons why established goals were not met (if appropriate)
  • Other pertinent information including, when appropriate, updates on expenditures and analysis or explanation of cost overruns, under-spending, or high unit costs

Performance Reporting Frequency

The Federal awarding agency determines the frequency with which the performance reports are to be submitted in the award package. Quarterly or semiannual reports are due thirty days after the reporting period. Final performance reports are due ninety calendar days after the expiration or termination of the award. The notice of award or the program announcement will provide details about progress reporting requirements for your grant program.

Awarding agencies require evaluation because it ensures compliance and progress.

The evaluation section of your application for funding may have described the amount of time needed to evaluate, how the feedback will be distributed among the proposed staff, and a schedule for review and comment for this type of communication. To be successful, most evaluations require the collection of appropriate data before, during, and after program operations. Systems for such data collection generally must be developed prior to the start of the funded project. However, your organization must absorb the costs for setting up data collection systems prior to the start of the award because the official use of Federal funds begins at the award start date.

Evaluation requires both coordination and agreement among program decision makers. Above all, the Federal awarding agency's requirements should be highlighted in the evaluation design. If you have questions or concerns after the grant award has been made, your assigned program officer and grants management officer can provide specific information about evaluation requirements. Generally, the "Criteria for Selecting Application for Funding" section of a program announcement provides a detailed description of the exact evaluation methods required for funded programs.