Education Grants Management

Actions Initiated to Correct Material Weaknesses Gao ID: HRD-91-72 June 26, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Education's actions to correct weaknesses in its management of discretionary grants programs, including: (1) the award of unnecessary or poorly defined grants; (2) lack of comprehensive monitoring; and (3) untimely, improper closing of expired grants.

GAO found that Education: (1) began in fiscal year (FY) 1986 to even out its scheduling of grant competitions, but was still awarding the majority of new discretionary grants in the final quarter; (2) in FY 1989, began to publish a notice of all grant competitions instead of separate announcements, expedite grant regulation processing, and require program offices to develop funding priorities earlier in the fiscal year; (3) also planned to improve the field reader process and combine three directives on grant application review procedures to eliminate duplicative or overlapping requirements; (4) increased its program travel budgets to allow more on-site monitoring visits to grantees; (5) lacked specific guidance on assessing fiscal accountability during site visits; (6) spent considerably more per grantee on monitoring in FY 1990 than in FY 1989; (7) to prevent delays in closing out discretionary grants, improved communications with program offices and grantees and implemented a system to automatically deobligate funds from expired grants; (8) risked losing millions of dollars through improper drawdowns from its large backlog of expired but unclosed grants; and (9) plans to develop a mechanism to notify grantees who are tardy in submitting final performance reports, provide early notice to program offices regarding expired grants ready for deobligation of available funds, and automatically deobligate grants that remain open for more than 18 months after their expiration date.

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