Department of Commerce Inspector General Report to Congress


Author: Todd Zinser
Location:
National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 1401 Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC, 20230, United States

The Department of Commerce's Office of Inspector General identified several concerns in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's broadband stimulus (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program -- BTOP) pre-award process and expressed concern with whether NTIA has identified and obtained needed resources to execute a grant program of BTOP's magnitude in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's timeframe.

  • BTOP's size and complexity have significantly challenged NTIA. NTIA's program staffing levels appear to be insufficient to simultaneously perform the necessary first- and second-round award activities.
  • The office relies heavily on a few key individuals and personnel from other agencies to carry out the program's operations.
  • NTIA's inconsistent documentation of important information such as policies, procedures, staff roles, and key management decisions could lead to inefficiency and miscommunication.
  • The first round of BTOP grant application processing exposed several problems with the online grant intake system, which affected efficiency and users' experiences.
  • A shortage of volunteer peer reviewers meant that application review for the first round was delayed. As NTIA manages the second-round process and handles post-award activities for first-round grant recipients, it must be careful to obtain enough reviewers for the workload.
  • NTIA will need to closely monitor grantees during post-award operations to ensure they comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

According to the Act, BTOP must spend all of its $4.7 billion in grant funding by September 30, 2010. Over the next 6 months, NTIA must address several challenges as it concurrently monitors first-round grant awards and issues new awards. Challenges include (1) coordinating with other federal organizations supporting contract and grants management and (2) overseeing contractors implementing BTOP. In the next semiannual period, we will issue a report detailing our concerns with BTOP's program management and pre-award process.

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