Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Report finds shortcomings in monitoring stimulus funding for broadband

A report released Monday by the Department of Commerce's Office of the Inspector General calls for more oversight of federal stimulus package broadband funding. The report concluded: "The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the agency that has been managing the program, isn’t doing enough to monitor how grantees are spending the stimulus money," Jennifer Martinez of Politico reports. The Inspector General found problems with the program's internal processes, including a recommendation that "NTIA staff needs more training in using the technology systems developed by outside contractor Booz Allen Hamilton to monitor the program’s winners," Martinez writes.

"This transfer of IT knowledge is of particular concern because NTIA is a relatively small-staffed agency charged with the execution of a major program, and it has relied heavily on the expertise and capabilities of (Booz Allen Hamilton) in virtually every aspect" of the program, the report said. Congress did not allocate enough money to manage the program after Dec. 3, but the report argued that NTIA had other strategies to ensure the program's effectiveness. The report also recommended that NTIA complete "tasks more quickly and clearly [outline] responsibilities for other agencies that support NTIA’s grants program," Martinez writes.

"Despite the potential lack of funding, NTIA’s post-award monitoring and oversight practices need to be strengthened in several ways," the report said. "Some agreements with other Commerce agencies are unclear and have not been carefully managed" and "some aspects of award monitoring are not being completed promptly or efficiently." NTIA is waiting for Congress to authorize an additional $24 million so it can monitor its grantees. (Read more)

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