The Federal Government already licenses software packages such as Microsoft SharePoint and InfoPath that can be effectively used to operate and manage competitive grant application review processes. Currently, the IT infrastructure for most grant competitions relies on contractor built systems that unnecessarily cost the government millions of dollars.
For a recent $2 billion Recovery Act funded grant competition, the Office of Block Grant Assistance (OBGA) was tasked with designing an information system to manage the review of almost 500 applications requesting in excess of $15 billion in funding. Given OBGA had no time to hire and use a custom contractor built system, the office had to utilize existing resources to quickly assemble a functional management tool.
Realizing the untapped potential of Microsoft InfoPath and SharePoint, OBGA leveraged the available in-house resources to create an intuitive and highly reliable Scoring Module that serviced over 120 HUD reviewers operating around the country from the offices of CPD, PIH and PD&R. The module met and exceeded the needs of the office to execute review and post-award consultation of all applications in a timely manner. To that end, the OIG found no significant findings when evaluating the competition’s review process, in part due to the audit tools inherent in SharePoint.
Not only did the module provide the necessary flexibility, reliability and accountability of a contractor built system, it also ushered in a new way of thinking about IT infrastructure within CPD. Since its initial implementation, the Scoring Module has been deployed for use on a variety of other grant competitions within CPD. Furthermore, the Scoring Module is now currently under evaluation for use by other programs around HUD. Most of these programs have previously relied on highly expensive contractor built systems, which in some cases provide minimal or no added benefit over the InfoPath/SharePoint Scoring Module.