It’s My Job to Keep Them Off the Six O’clock News: Partnering with Stakeholders
By Collett Litchard, MSC—Contract/Grant Analyst II—Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice

I half-jokingly tell our subrecipients that “It’s my job to keep them off the 6:00 news,” when I meet with them for any grant monitoring activity. I say this not only to put them at ease during the process, but also to light-heartedly inform them of the sober responsibility we all carry to be good stewards of the public grant funds we administer.

My main function as a Grant Analyst for Utah’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice is to monitor my agency’s grantees for compliance to the terms and conditions of their grants. I am the team lead of the three staff members assigned to monitoring activities for over 180 subrecipients across 17 state and federal grant programs with a combined total of nearly $20 million in current funding.

Our office administers these funds with the expertise of our grants management team, a staff of about a dozen diverse professionals. Our philosophy, “We are Partners with our Stakeholders to Maximize the Success of the Grant Programs we Administer,” drives the success of our grant management and compliance monitoring activities.

My team and I focus primarily on the financial aspects of compliance monitoring and our Program Managers focus on the programmatic aspects of compliance for all the programs that our office administers.

The Monitoring Team conducts financial reviews of the reimbursement requests from our grantees, the financial desk reviews and site visits, and the technical assistance and training opportunities related to financial compliance.

Our Program Managers review the progress reports and collect the data that informs their performance measure reporting to their respective state and federal granting stakeholders. They also conduct site visits and technical assistance related to programmatic activities.

It may seem like there are only three key stakeholder groups in our process: our grantees, our monitoring team, and our program managers. However, when you look at the larger grants landscape, there are many more stakeholders that are affected by the funding behind our programs.

My office acts as a pass-through entity for eight federal grant programs and nine state grant programs. That translates to over 180 subrecipients statewide. Some of the other stakeholders besides the three groups mentioned previously are:

  • Federal Granting Agencies
  • State and Federal Legislators
  • County, Tribal, and Municipal Governments
  • Law Enforcement Agencies
  • Higher Education Facilities
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • For-Profit Contractors
  • State and Federal Auditors
  • Professional Organizations Such as NGMA

I say “some” because it would be nearly impossible to identify every person who could be considered a stakeholder. What about the program participants who receive the services offered by grant-funded programs? What about citizen or news reporters who sometimes question where the taxpayer funds are going? Partnering with all stakeholders is key to successful grants management.

Two key partnerships we strive to strengthen are with our federal program managers and professional organizations like NGMA. We do this by reaching out to our federal program managers for guidance and by being members of NGMA so we can take advantage of training opportunities they provide. These two partnerships aid us in strengthening our policies and procedures, and the monitoring activities they guide.

My team and I try to mirror our monitoring processes as closely as possible to the way we see our federal partners conduct their monitoring activities. As I stated before, we conduct three types of monitoring activities, desk reviews, site visits, and technical assistance.

In October, we are collaborating with NGMA and another State of Utah agency to conduct a state-wide technical assistance training for grantees to provide them with information they said they lacked. We will continue these types of technical assistance activities with stakeholder partnerships in the future, addressing the needs of our grantees and other stakeholders.

In the Spring of 2021, I went on a joint site visit with my team members and one of them told our grantee that compliance is a joint effort. When a subrecipient is out of compliance, we, as the state administering agency (SAA) are out of compliance. It goes both ways.

Recently, we identified an audit compliance issue internally that we realize is insufficient to satisfy the terms and conditions of our federal awards. Because we, as the SAA, are out of compliance, our grantees are out of compliance. This issue also affects other state agencies and our federal partners.

We are in the process of identifying and implementing a strategy to remedy our own noncompliance issue. We realize we will need to engage community partners to assist in bringing us back into compliance with the specific grant condition regarding audit requirements.

Full compliance will take combined efforts from many stakeholders to remedy the issue, including independent CPAs conducting single audits on the subrecipients required to submit those reports.

Our efforts to remedy noncompliance may require hiring interns temporarily to ensure timely identification and reconciliation of the issue. It will also require us to update our grant management and monitoring policies and procedures to ensure the oversight does not happen again. By doing all this, our grantee stakeholders and federal stakeholders will be positively impacted.

Whether it is internal self-monitoring, external grantee monitoring, or other necessary grant management activities, the need to partner with all stakeholders is crucial to the overall success of administering publicly funded grant programs. Not only does it prevent us from being the subject of negative news reports, six o’clock edition or otherwise, but it also eases the heavy burden of grants management on all stakeholders.

When all stakeholders are engaged in maximizing the success of the grant program objectives, it allows for the realization of reaching and even exceeding program objectives — and that keeps all stakeholders happy.