IMAGE, PUBLICDOMAINPICTURESThe US federal department that awards more than $400 billion in grants to researchers every year is seeking ways to better oversee funding recipients. The key to this, according to a report released this week (September 2) by the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), is better information sharing among 13 HHS awarding agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Such an improvement could help funders identify and deal with researchers who underperform or misuse grant money. “Awarding agencies’ grant officials use various sources of information and communication to mitigate grantee risks; however, grant officials noted limitations in some instances,” the report read.
In surveying grant officials at different HHS agencies, the OIG found that reports reviewed to mitigate the risk of grant misuse are often late and incomplete, identified lapses in communication between grant management officers, and uncovered a failure of some agencies to submit National External Audit Review Center memoranda. It also found that fewer than half of the HHS awarding agencies share information about grantees with other agencies.
In its report, the OIG recommended that funding agencies improve their use of databases designed to monitor grantees, establish a department-wide repository for adverse information from audits of grantees, and enhance information sharing across HHS.