E-grants pilot sets example of going for the PMA green

Wade Horn takes the goals of the President’s Management Agenda seriously.

Horn, the assistant secretary for the Health and Human Services Department’s Administration for Children and Families, oversaw his agency’s efforts to receive all green scores from HHS secretary Tommy Thompson on the five agenda items of the PMA: e-government, competitive sourcing, human capital management, financial management, and budget and performance integration.

The Office of Management and Budget rates cabinet departments and large independent agencies on its PMA scorecard, giving them scores of red, yellow or green to rate their accomplishments and progress toward the agenda’s goals. HHS offered similar grades to its component agencies.

Among the accomplishments that earned ACF its green score in e-government was the development of a grants pilot.

ACF, which administers welfare, adoption and foster care, Head Start and child day care programs, handles $43 billion a year in grants, including state formula or block grants for welfare payments and discretionary grants for local government or community organizations.

ACF is piloting its Grants Administration, Tracking and Evaluation System, or GATES, which it will provide for use by other HHS agencies. Horn said he expects GATES to be operating by next summer. Organizations will be able to submit grant applications electronically. They will be automatically sent to reviewers, who will score the applications electronically.

Various HHS agencies currently use seven different grant application systems, Horn said. The disparity of the systems adds costs, as does the fact that grant reviewers have had to travel to Washington to evaluate proposals. “If we could distribute the grant materials electronically, we could save money just by not having to fly reviewers to Washington,” he said.

Pipeline to Web

As part of GATES, ACF developed an automated Grants Announcement Management System, or GAMS, which speeds preparation of grant announcements and transmits them electronically to FedGrants.gov, part of GSA’s portal for announcing new grant opportunities online.

ACF is preparing a second pilot, developing requirements for interfaces with GAMS and the grants portal to receive grant applications from the public and transfer them electronically to GATES for processing by grant specialists, said Curtis Coy, ACF’s deputy assistant secretary for administration.

ACF developed an announcement template with commercial software. With paper-based grant announcements, “we’d take last year’s announcement, white-out the date and make changes,” Coy said.

Using the template, organizations can send grant announcements and accompanying materials electronically to all offices required.

“My job is to set the vision and goals, hold people accountable for achieving them, give them the resources to do that, then get out of the way, and let them do their work,” Horn said.

But Horn took an active role when it came to bringing disparate offices together to work on components of the e-Grants pilot, Coy said.

Horn holds twice-weekly senior staff meetings that encourage managers to share information about their programs and explore ways to connect them.

Grant reviewers now travel to Washington for training, but a work group is developing a training program to run before next summer.

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