The Gallery: How Your City Can Ensure Post-Award Grant Compliance

state house gallery

Cities commonly face budgetary challenges when trying to implement desired infrastructure, transportation, technology and public welfare inititiatves.

When property and sales taxes can’t foot the bill, federal and state grants are often used to kickstart and fund these development projects.

However, lack of planning, fund mismangement and inadequate post-award reporting can put this money in jeopardy. Read on for common grant management challenges and strategies to help your city overcome them.

Post-Award Compliance Challenges

Questioned costs and mishandled funds in major cities, such as Detroit and Baltimore, have resulted in missed drawdown and even repayment. When expected funds aren’t received as planned, budgets are disrupted, projects halted and city leaders questioned.

To stay organized and ensure that money is spent as planned, cities need a centralized system to house all grant-related materials. This includes communications, tasks, workflows, performance data, expense reports, project plans, budgets and more.

When this data is spread across different platforms and housed in inconsistent formats, errors are more frequent and reporting convoluted. It is also harder to maintain knowledge share among departments and to train new personnel if turnover occurs.

Post-award compliance challenges are further exacerbated by changing federal grant regulations that emphasize performance-based results, and make it easier for the federal government to pinpoint waste- fraud and abuse of awarded monies.

With the May 2017 DATA Act (Digital Accountability and Transparency Act) compliance deadline quickly approaching, federal agencies will be required to publish spending data in open data formats. As a result, federal spending and associated performance metrics will be more readily available to analyze, compare and use for budgeting decisions.

DATA Act implementation will have a trickle-down effect onto federal grantees:

• Cities will have added pressure to report on financial and performance data of funds received, and accurately track program outcomes.
• Those cities that can demonstrate a history of successful performance will be more likely to win future funds.
• Misuse of funds will be easier to identify, making proper allocation and use imperative to ensure promised money is received.
• Cities that can submit grant information in machine-readable formats can ease the administrative burden on federal agencies, and simplify their own data collection and reporting processes.

Preparing for Award Compliance

Post-award is your time to prove you’ve spent funds as promised, and remained compliant with award requirements.

To set your city up for grant management success, consider the following:

• Establish realistic goals that align with the funder’s overall mission before receiving grant money. In the proposal, define how your city will use the money, expected performance results and a budget to guide spending.
• Outline roles, responsibilities, timelines and milestones to provide funders an accurate picture of the project from start to finish.
• If available, use past grant performance data to demonstrate to a history of project success and compliance. Weave in subjective stories, as appropriate, to further drive home the value your organization can provide.
• Create a single reference point for all grant-related information. Use a consistent naming scheme and filing structure so that information can be easily referenced.
• Ensure a separation of duties across key accounting processes—recording transactions, authorizing transactions and housing program assets. Train staff appropriately on internal control processes and grant standards.
• Run regular reports on program spend, progress and performance to catch mistakes, overspending, poor performance and delays. Proactively address any issues idenfitied to ensure compliance with award parameters.

By: Adam Roth ( is the president and CEO of StreamLink Software.  

The Gallery is a forum for ideas and examination of matters facing state and local government. Readers, members of the media, academics or the business community are invited to submit guest columns to bailey{at}civsourceonline{dot}com. Member of the public sector? We’re interested in hearing from you too. CivSource does not endorse the views presented in The Gallery, but offers them in an effort to present more diverse coverage. CivSource will review all submissions but does not guarantee publication of all works submitted.