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HHS Oversight of Grantees Could Be Improved Through Better Information Sharing


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the largest grantmaking agency in the Federal Government. In fiscal year 2014, HHS awarded nearly $402 billion in grants. We conducted this study to assess how HHS's grant-awarding agencies share information with each other about grantees and potential grantees to assess and mitigate risks of poor performance or misuse of grant funds. Assessing and mitigating grantee risk is a component of HHS' strategic initiatives. Additionally, since 2007, the Office of Inspector General has identified grants management as a top management challenge for HHS.


We conducted structured telephone interviews with the Chief Grants Management Officer and/or designated staff from each of 13 HHS awarding agencies. We also collected data from awarding agencies regarding alert memorandums and fraud memorandums from the National External Audit Review Center (NEARC).


Awarding agencies' grant officials use various sources of information and communication to mitigate grantee risks; however, grant officials noted limitations in some instances. For example, information available in databases assists staff from awarding agencies in managing grantee risks, but lack of integration poses challenges. NEARC memorandums contain important information about grantee risks, but not all awarding agencies receive them. Awarding agencies lack a systematic method of sharing information about grantee risks, and sharing occurs infrequently. However, grant officials in the majority of awarding agencies we reviewed would like to receive such information from other awarding agencies.


We recommend that the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources (1) analyze whether to implement the use of integrated databases that contain adverse information on grantees' past performance, (2) establish a departmentwide source of adverse information from audits of grantees, and (3) facilitate departmentwide information sharing about grantees that have past performance issues. ASFR concurred with all three recommendations.