HHS awaits funds for one of 23 e-gov projects

HHS awaits funds for one of 23 e-gov projects

The Health and Human Services Department has been developing its Federal Commons grants portal since 1998 with the help of agency volunteers and donations. Now the President’s Management Council has selected the project for funding as one of the top 23 e-government initiatives announced last week.

“We’re trying to accelerate the work the Federal Commons is doing,” said Terrence Tychan, HHS’ deputy assistant secretary for grants and acquisition management. “The Federal Commons fits with what Mark Forman wants.”

Forman, associate director for IT and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget, has said he will fund projects that “simplify and unify” federal systems.

The portal, at www.cfda.gov/federalcommons, offers centralized information and online applications for about 300 government grant programs nationwide. It went live in December 1999 to help 26 grant-issuing agencies comply with the 1999 Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act, which requires them to provide electronic grant applications and information.

Tychan said he hopes to get $4.5 million by next year to re-engineer the portal. HHS has received several hundred thousand dollars from the Chief Financial Officers Council, he said, but nowhere near what is needed.

“We passed the hat among the agencies and were able to get started,” Tychan said. Some of the 26 grants agencies are working on pilots, and HHS has developed data standards for their grant applications.

Tychan said he hopes the project, selected from among hundreds of elite initiatives, will get funds from OMB, the President’s Management Council and possibly Forman’s $100 million e-gov fund. “We’re trying not only to automate the applications, we’re also talking about re-engineering the grant-making process so it will all make sense,” he said.

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