If the OIG Arrived on Your Doorstep Tomorrow, Would You Survive the Day?
Site visits and single audits forever make me feel as if I’ve been called to the principal’s office. (For the record, I’ve never been, but just the thought would have sent my type A personality, rule-following self into a tailspin.) I’m darn good at grant management, and I do my best to cross every “t” and dot every “i”, but that does not mean every grant I manage is absolutely perfect. I’m guessing the same is true for you, because no matter how well-read, how experienced, or how organized you are, it is easy to miss something. (If you have never heard of a single audit, it is also known as the Office of Management and Budget’s A-133 Audit conducted when your organization expended $750,000 or more in federal funds in a single fiscal year.)
My first day on the job as the inaugural grants administrator for a local government ended with me reading the results of a Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Audit (OIG). Over the course of four years, the police department was awarded five grants through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to hire an additional 18 officers to focus on community policing. Needless to say, the department’s successful grant applications did not fully equate to successful grant management, and the audit resulted in seven findings. Ultimately, the police department was accused of poor reporting habits, supplanting, and paying excess salaries. (For more details on the seven findings, take a listen to the Season 2, Episode 10 podcast episode of Fundraising HayDay.)
I showed up after the audit and was tasked with closing out each finding. Over the course of three years, my coworkers and I were able to get the job done— and I learned a few things about grant management and audits.
- The easiest way to handle the OIG is to avoid a visit from them in the first place. I know, it sounds obvious. The reality is that many people leave grant management to the last minute. When you are juggling a multitude of responsibilities at work, it is easy to push grant work aside for later. But in doing so you are risking overlooking a report, rule, regulation, or requirement of the grant award. So make grant management your number one priority.
- Real estate agents say it’s all about location, location, location. For grant managers, it’s all about document, document, document. If you can’t prove how you spent the money, engaged your community, or implemented your program then your funder is going to assume you did it wrong or not at all.
- The OIG assigns a liaison to walk you through the audit closeout process. Listen to your liaison. They dole out great advice and lead you through the process. (P.S. It didn’t hurt that mine sounded like Barry White.)
- I am not an accountant, and many of the findings revolved around how money was spent on salaries for the hired police officers. I cannot stress this enough: finance coworkers are worth their weight in gold. Cultivate these relationships.
- Grant management is a team effort. Grant managers, program officers, finance folks, and a multitude of your coworkers and their knowledge are needed to make sure every grant requirement is accurately fulfilled. But it does not end there. Executive Directors, City Managers, University Presidents, and other bosses along with your board or council need to understand the value of grant management and make it a priority for your organization. It is important that everyone understands their role from the outset.
If I never deal with the OIG again, I am okay with that. But if for some reason I do, at least I know it is a survivable event. And next time, I’ll be better prepared. How about you?
DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 2 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on season 1 and stay up to date on the new season here.
Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.