The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should attempt to consistently track COVID-19 pandemic-related grant flexibilities and implement a plan for electronic grant file storage, an EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report said.
According to the OIG, EPA’s Office of Grants and Debarment doesn’t know the full extent to which program offices are regions implementing grant flexibilities. The office has tracked pandemic-related flexibilities and exceptions but has not tracked grants that received flexibilities and exceptions approved by program offices and regions.
“The lack of agencywide tracking of grant flexibilities and exceptions hindered the Agency’s ability to assess how the coronavirus pandemic impacted the grant process as it relates to the grant recipient’s ability to accomplish its program mission to protect human health and the environment,” the OIG wrote.
On the file storage front, the OIG said EPA should implement an official agency-wide electronic grant fil storage system that provides staff with consistent access to grant files in emergencies and while teleworking.
“The Office of Grants and Debarment did not require program offices and regions to use a centralized electronic system to access and store official grant files,” the OIG wrote. “As a result, the agency’s grant data and documents are at risk of being lost, especially if they are stored on local hard drives, or could be inaccessible if the EPA staff member who stored the data or documents is unavailable.”
OIG recommended that EPA develop a standard operating procedure to instruct “program offices and regions on tracking and documenting grant flexibilities and exceptions for unanticipated events to ensure consistency in the information needed to manage grants.”
It also recommended that EPA develop and plan to implement a uniform electronic record-keeping system for grants to meet the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) direction for all Federal records to be created, retained, and managed in electronic formats by Dec. 2022.
EPA agreed with all recommendations, which are resolved with corrective actions pending.