Grant Progress Assessments Checklist

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Overview of Grant Progress Assessments

On a set two-year cycle, a trained assessor or team of assessors — many of them DNA laboratory managers themselves — visited each crime laboratory that had an open NIJ forensic science grant.

Assessors reviewed grant status, assessed whether the grantee was spending federal funds in accordance with federal guidelines, and helped grantees understand the rules and regulations associated with their grants. The assessors’ checklist helped them examine everything from budgets to performance measurement data to deliverables.

Sample Grant Assessment Checklist

  1. Conduct general budget review.
    • A general overview would answer the following questions. Did the grantee:
      • Follow the solicitation for allowable expenses?
      • Use the budget spreadsheet format and check the math against the budget narrative?
      • Use the total amount of the award?
  2. Compare progress reports with rate of expenditures.
    • The assessor should compare the quarterly financial drawdown report against the rate of expenditures for personnel, invoices, contracts and purchase orders and other expenses cited in the budget.
  3. Verify that grant funds are not commingled.
    • Grant funding must be maintained separate from other sources of income and identified and coded specifically back to the award.
  4. If a formula grant, determine whether the administrative cost threshold has been exceeded.
    • The annual salary rate and the percentage of time to be devoted to the project should be shown. Compensation paid for employees engaged in grant activities must be consistent with that paid for similar work within the applicant organization.
  5. If a formula grant, determine whether it has subgrants and if the cost threshold for those subgrants has been met or exceeded.
    • This would be established at the beginning of the award and monitored by a similar process that is required for the reporting of the entire award.
  6. If a formula grant, review the overall subgrant process.
    • Refer to the OJP Financial Guide and review the information under subgrant and subrecipients for guidance.
  7. While on-site, review the award file and check for: (1) signed award document and (2) correspondence with OJP grant manager.
    • These are key documents that provide the best overview, particularly the special conditions that must be followed for the duration of the award.
  8. Confirm that services and activities described in progress reports have been provided or completed.
    • Verification of services and activities ensures that the original scope of the award has been adhered to.
  9. Review compliance with confidentiality requirements, if applicable.
    • Personally identifiable information must be handled according the direction provided in the solicitation and on the form submitted with the application of the award. See the original solicitations for details.
  10. Review compliance with human subjects protection requirements, if applicable.
    • Human subject protection requirements must be handled according to the direction provided in the solicitation and on the form submitted with the application of the award. See the original solicitations for details.
  11. Confirm whether property information is being maintained, if applicable.
    • This is usually verified through calibration logs and maintenance contracts. It may also be part of the laboratory’s standard operating procedures regarding quality control.
  12. Determine if any subcontractor/subgrantee monitoring is being performed by grantee, if applicable, and that the grantee monitors its subgrantee for compliance with the conditions of the subgrant award.
    • This is usually the responsibility of the state administrating agency, which must monitor activities compliant with the criteria set forth in the award solicitation and award documents.
  13. Observe grant activities/services to verify whether key personnel are actually performing the duties originally proposed, if applicable (e.g., key personnel are identified in the grant application).
    • Personnel timesheets and reported activities in progress reports are indicators that confirm the information described in the award program narrative.
  14. Review personnel timesheets to ensure that staffing charges are in line with the proposed budget.
    • This is an important aspect of monitoring costs and tracking expenses against the agency’s general ledger and the rate of funding drawdowns.
  15. Did the grant manager visit a grant-funded project site where one or more activity/deliverable is performed?
    • With the current restrictions on federal travel and expenditures, additional means of effective monitoring in place of site visits are available, including regular desk reviews and Enhanced Programmatic Desk Reviews through NIJ’s Grant Assessment Tool.
  16. Review proposed project goals, activities and services vs. actual activities and services (e.g., time task plan).
    • This is important to review several times during the award period to prevent scope creep and stay on target with the original purpose of the award.
  17. Assess deliverables through observing grant activities/services, if applicable.
    • The solicitation and program management guidance sets up reporting requirements. If they involve metrics and measurements that track the progress of the award, reports reflect this information. See the original solicitations for details.
  18. Did you observe or were you made aware of any changes in grantee activities?
    • Memos and correspondence with the program manager along with a general sense of the overall progress of the award indicate if further action is needed on any aspect of the award.
  19. Verify that reported performance measurement data are valid and is being collected appropriately.
    • Laboratory Information Systems are widely used and can provide data that are collected appropriately.
  20. As a result of your observations or discussions with grantees regarding grant activities/services, describe promising practices, if any.
    • Were any processes modified, techniques developed or equipment purchased that created a cost efficiency not known at the start of this award?
  21. Note whether the grantee raised any issues during the site visit.
    • This could include proactive observations that could head off potential issues for resolution.
  22. Before the site visit, the grant manager should review the High Risk list on the OJP portal to determine if the grantee to be site-visited is on the list. Grantees are designated as “High-Risk” by the Office of Audit, Assessment and Management in accordance with criteria established in 28 CFR § 66.12, OJP Order 2900.2, and the Grant Managers Manual, Chapter 10. If the grantee was designated on the OJP High Risk grantee list, document any steps that are taken to help the grantee resolve those known issues.
  23. As a result of observations or discussions with grantees regarding grant activities or services, note whether the grantee experienced any roadblocks to grant implementation.
    • Communication with program management is the best insurance for keeping the award on track.
  24. Describe any training or technical assistance currently in progress, provided or requested. Document if any technical assistance needs arise while on-site.
    • Additional training may be identified during the execution of the award and may require a change of scope to meet award deliverables. Contacting program management for advice would address these needs.
  25. Thoroughly review the grantee’s financial, administrative and programmatic compliance to detect any potential indicators of fraud, waste and abuse. If fraud, waste or abuse is suspected, follow OJP reporting guidance.
    • Also alert program management staff to coordinate any plan of action if necessary.

Additional Documentation and Contact Information

Review Past Solicitations. You may also find it useful to review past solicitations for general information on program eligibility and requirements:

Contact Information. Review NIJ's phone directory for program staff contact information.

Date Created: January 28, 2013