Whenever one organization contracts with another organization to provide program services, the organization providing the funding assumes some responsibility for assuring that the funds are being managed efficiently and effectively to accomplish the objectives for which funds were provided.
There are several mechanisms that can be used for monitoring performance. Some of these mechanisms include: (a) reviewing and approving program planning documents, (b) reviewing and approving operating budgets for the programs, (c) reviewing and approving expenditure reports for the program, (d) reviewing any reports of program accomplishments or other indicator data on the programs, (e) requiring, reviewing, and resolving audits of the program, and (f) performing on-site visits.
From time to time, in fulfilling its management monitoring responsibilities for subrecipient organizations funded through this department, DHS staff have conducted on-site visits for the purpose of obtaining a brief assessment of the management capabilities of organizations it funds.
Numerous on-site review tools and performance checklists have been developed for the purpose of assisting staff responsible for monitoring the performance of subrecipients. Recently, however, Office of Program Review and Audit staff have developed a checklist of questions covering the areas of board oversight, financial management, and program management that we have found helpful in developing a broad assessment of organizational performance. This "site tool" is provided as a source of guidance for those whose responsibilities include the monitoring of the organizations to which they provide funds, and who do not already have a tool developed or are interested in reviewing their existing site monitoring tool.
Site Visit Tool for Monitoring Subgrantee Performance
This tool was developed for brief (ideally one day) site visits to provider organizations to enable one to get a feel for how well the organization is functioning. The three broad areas covered are board activities, financial management, and program management.
Depending on the many varied circumstances surrounding the program(s) and provider organization being monitored, the users of the tool need to decide which of the enclosed questions are applicable, whether other subject areas need to be included in the review,and the criteria the reviewer(s) will use to determine whether the answers offered by the provider organization are acceptable. For example, if a recently completed comprehensive financial audit of an organization identified no accounting problems, the reviewer(s) may not need to ask every question pertaining to financial management. On the other hand, knowledge of past program performance concerns may prompt the reviewer(s) to concentrate on obtaining full and complete answers to all program management questions.
- Are there Board approved by-laws? Obtain copies and review for relevant materials.
- Are there Board approved personnel policies and procedures? Review these for any items that may be relevant to program operations or to the costs charged to grant programs.
- Is there a Board approved financial policy and procedures manual? Is it updated on a periodic basis?
- Determine the Board's role in establishing program directions, including development of a mission statement for the organization.
- What kind of financial and program performance reports typically go to the Board, if any?
- How active a role does the Board take in financial matters? In reviewing budget priorities? In reviewing financial performance?
- Has the Board established performance goals for the Executive Director and periodically evaluated performance of the Executive Director?
- Does the agency charge indirect costs to grants? If so, do they have a written indirect cost plan? Is the pool of indirect costs to be recovered through the rate segregated from costs charged directly? Are indirect costs budgeted for and approved in grant contracts? Do the costs charged meet any limitations prescribed for indirect costs?
- Does the agency allocate costs? If so, is there a written cost allocation plan? Is it reasonable? Is it followed?
- Are the agency's bank statements reconciled in a timely manner? Check for signatures and for the age and amount of outstanding checks.
- Are the agency's expenditure reports, which are submitted to the granting agency, supported by the agency's accounting records? Consider the rate of expenditure of granting funds. (The subgrantee may not be adequately controlling funds if year-to-date expenditures, when annualized, far exceed budgeted amounts. On the other hand, expenditure rates well below budgeted levels may indicate the subgrantee is not meeting targeted service levels.)
- Is there adequate supporting documentation in the accounting records to support transactions that appear in the accounting system? Records of original entry, journal entries, correction transfers. (For a quick review, ask to see where these are kept and select a few samples of each of these and review with the business office staff how these are prepared and see what types of support are attached to the copies that appear in the files.)
- What kinds of records make up the agency's accounting system? Detailed, summary, management. (For a quick review, select a few entries that appear on a recent expenditure report that has been filed with the department and ask the business office staff to trace back through the worksheets used to prepare the report and the associated accounting records from which the numbers on the worksheet were taken. This process is not overly time-consuming and can provide one with a quick comfort reading on the agency's record keeping system.)
- Has the subgrantee developed and followed through in implementing a corrective action plan designed to fix all accounting deficiencies noted in the subgrantee's last annual audit?
- How are the agency's individual grants accounted for in the accounting system? What records are kept of grant activity?
- Is the subgrantee experiencing difficulties paying bills in a timely manner, as would be evidenced by a substantial amount of outstanding payables? If so, how old are the unpaid bills?
- Are any program services offered through subcontractors? If so, review the subcontractor contracts and the status of payments to the subcontractors.
- Does the organization keep records of equipment purchased with grant funds which show the date and amount of purchase, a description of the equipment which would enable one to identify and locate the particular items listed, and the grant sources which contributed to the purchase along with the amounts contributed by each?
- Review any major leases for space and equipment to ensure that the amount ultimately charged to grants for such items are reasonable and to identify any related party transactions that might result in unreasonable charges to grants for these items.
- Are there current, specific position descriptions for staff and supervisors?
- Are there provisions for employee evaluations, and is there evidence that employees are evaluated regularly?
- To what extent do Program Directors manage their programs? That is, to what extent are program directors: (a) seeking out additional support for new programs related to their existing programs; (b) developing program plans; (c) monitoring operating budgets; (d) setting program priorities; and (e) preparing any reports of program accomplishments?
- What financial reports do program managers routinely use?
- Do program managers have a clear idea of their program objectives?
- Have program managers developed measures of success which indicate the degree to which program objectives are being met? Is this information presented to the board? Is the information used by the organization to improve program services?
- Check contracts for performance goals and determine the extent to which these are being measured and met.
- How often do monitoring staff review the programs operated by the organization? What programs are reviewed? Are there any reports on the results of monitoring visits? What do the reports have to say about the programs?