Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA)
Background - What is the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act? Reporting
Audit and Oversight – Accountability for Federal Funds
Other FFATA Resources
Advocacy EffortsWith many thanks to Ken Eye from BDO, who generously gave his time and expertise to produce this article. ---
Background - What is FFATA?
Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 - The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, better known as FFATA, is legislation which requires that information on federal awards (federal financial assistance and expenditures) be made available to the public via a single, searchable website - USASpending.gov. The stated objective of the legislation, which was signed into law on September 26, 2006, is to empower every American with the ability to hold the government accountable for each spending decision; the end result is to reduce wasteful spending in the government.Cited as the ‘‘Government Funding Transparency Act of 2008’’ and signed into law on June 30, 2008 (page 65) is an amendment to the FFATA legislation with additional subaward data requirements for compensation.Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 or the ‘‘DATA Act’’ – The act was signed into law on May 9, 2014. The DATA Act’s purpose was to expand the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 to increase accountability and transparency in Federal spending, and for other purposes:
Since Congress enacted the above FFATA legislation, one of OMB’s roles has been to provide further 2 CFR guidance to federal agencies and recipients be it through creation of new guidance, revisions to incorporate the guidance or incorporation of the guidance during revisions and creation of other guidance.
- Expand FFATA by disclosing direct agency expenditures and linking federal contract, loan, and grant spending information to federal agency programs
- Establish government-wide data standards for financial data and provide consistent, reliable, and searchable data that is displayed accurately
- Simplify reporting, streamline reporting requirements, and reduce compliance costs, while improving transparency
- Improve the quality of data submitted to USAspending.gov by holding agencies accountable.
- OMB’s creation and later revision of 2 CFR 170 to establish requirements for recipients’ reporting of information on subawards and executive total compensation
- OMB’s creation (including relocation of certain guidance) and later revision of 2 CFR 25 which was intended to enhance the quality of recipient and subawardee information available to the public when recipients began to report subaward information on October 1, 2010
- OMB’s incorporation of FFATA guidance during the creation of 2 CFR 200 and subsequent revision.
(Federal Register Notice of August 13, 2020 below provides the information on the latest revisions for grants and agreements.)
Similar to the grants and agreements, contract requirements in the Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR) incorporate FFATA statutory requirements of a unique entity identifier, SAM registration and reporting executive compensation information and first-tier subcontract awards. These requirements can be found mainly in Subpart 4.6 Contract Reporting, Subpart 4.11 System for Award Management and Subpart 4.14 Reporting Executive Compensation and First-Tier Subcontract Awards. Like 2 CFR, these provisions have been updated over time to align with changes in FFATA requirements.Federal Register Notice of August 13, 2020– Guidance for Grants and Agreements – Final guidance revised 2 CFR Parts 25, 170, 183, and 200 in line with these revisions to the guidance are effective November 12, 2020, except for the amendments to §§ 200.216 and 200.340, which are effective on August 13, 2020.
Several of the revisions to 2 CFR 170 and 200 incorporated requirements of FFATA as amended by the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) including changes to terminology for consistency and purposes of transparency.
Similarly, under 2 CFR Part 25.200 and where applicable, financial assistance applicants now need to provide certain information on their immediate owner and highest-level owner and subsidiaries, as well as on all predecessors that have been awarded a Federal contract, grant, or cooperative agreement within the last three years.
In addition, to further align implementation of FFATA, as amended by DATA Act, between the Federal financial assistance and acquisition communities, OMB revised the Federal awarding agency and pass-through entity reporting thresholds. For Federal awarding agencies, OMB revised 2 CFR part 170 to require agencies to report Federal awards that equal or exceed the micro purchase threshold as set by the FAR at 48 CFR part 2, subpart 2.1. Consistent with the FAR threshold for subcontract reporting, OMB raised the reporting threshold for subawards that equal or exceed $30,000.
Understanding the FFATA Reporting Process
While Federal agencies are responsible for reporting prime award(ee) information, prime grant awardees are responsible for reporting their sub-grants and prime contract awardees are responsible for reporting their sub-contracts using the internet portal www.fsrs.gov.
The site also has a FSRS user guide and a FSRS how-to video:
Prime recipients that had a gross income, from all sources, of under $300,000 in the previous tax year are exempt from this reporting.
Subrecipients are responsible for obtaining a DUNS number (see below) and providing it as well as other reporting data to their prime. All reporting requirements must be met no later than the end of the month following the month in which the obligation was made.
Requirements for subaward and executive compensation reporting is codified in 2 CFR 170 for grants and found in FAR Subpart 4.14 for contracts. Reporting Subaward and Executive Compensation Information. Prime recipients report their own executive compensation, if required, as part of their profile at www.sam.gov.
Prime recipients must report the following data about subawards equal to or greater than $25,000 (For awards issued after November 12, 2020, the threshold was increased to $30,000 as noted in the revised Uniform Guidance.):
- Name of entity receiving award
- Amount of award
- Funding agency
- NAICS code for contracts / CFDA program number for grants
- Program source
- Award title descriptive of the purpose of the funding action
- Location of the entity (including congressional district)
- Place of performance (including congressional district)
- Unique identifier of the entity and its parent (DUNS number – see below for more information)
- Total compensation and names of top five executives (same thresholds as for primes)
The Total Compensation and Names of the top five executives if:
- More than 80% of annual gross revenues from the Federal government, and those revenues are greater than $25M annually and
- Compensation information is not already available through reporting to the SEC.
Note: If the initial award is less than $30,000 then reporting will need to be done once subsequent modifications/amendments bring the total award to $30,000 or greater. If funding is de-obligated bringing funding down below $30,000, the award is still subject to reporting.
DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) is a system developed and regulated by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), that assigns a unique numeric identifier, referred to as a "DUNS number" to a single business entity. A common standard worldwide, DUNS users include the European Commission, the United Nations and the United States government. To track how Federal grant money is allocated, the Federal government requires that all applicants for Federal grants and cooperative agreements, except for individuals other than sole proprietors, have a DUNS number.
Recent changes state explicitly that subrecipients are not required to complete full SAM registration to obtain a unique entity identifier.
Recipients and subrecipients can allocate reasonable costs for the collection and reporting of subaward data as indirect costs.
UEI, the Replacement for DUNS
For an in-depth UEI guide, refer to this library entry.
What is happening with DUNS? What are Unique Entity Identifiers (UEIs), and what does my organization need to do to make the switch? – Some Information from SAM.gov, in brief:
Starting in April 2022 (this is a delayed date for introduction, it was originally December 2020), instead of going to Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) to request a D-U-N-S ® number, entities will go to a single place, SAM.gov, to both request their Entity ID and register their entity to do business with the U.S. Government.
Active registrants will have their UEI assigned and viewable within SAM.gov; there is no action for registered entities to take at this time.
This allows GSA to streamline the entity identification and validation process, making it easier and less burdensome for entities to do business with the federal government.
Streamlining the request and ongoing management process will make it easier to get a UEI. You will go to a single place, SAM.gov, to:
- Request your UEI and register your entity to do business with the U.S. Government.
- Make any updates to your legal business name and physical address associated with the UEI.
- Find customer support at a single helpdesk for all UEI and entity registration issues.
The definition of what makes an entity unique is not changing.
- Integrated Award Environment (IAE) acquires commercial entity validation services (EVS) to validate entity uniqueness and entity core data.
- Uniqueness is based on an entity being a separate legal entity and/or associated with a separate physical address.
- Based on the uniqueness determination, a UEI is assigned to that entity.
- Today, entity validation services are provided by D&B. The new entity validation services provider is Ernst & Young (EY).
- The service providers must validate that entities are unique. The definition of unique is not changing.
The change creates predictability for the cost of entity validation services. By separating the government requirement for a UEI from the government requirement to validate that the entity is unique, the aim is to introduce competitiveness into entity validation services.
We then competed and awarded a new contract for entity validation services which is not connected to the identifier itself. We chose to have the new, non-proprietary identifier both requested in and generated by SAM.gov to reduce the burden of change; the government and entities will transition from using the DUNS number only once, even if in the future a different entity validation service provider is selected.
The Transition from DUNS to UEI in Stages
Transition Phase Plans: (July 2019–Transition Completion)
- The DUNS number remains the official identifier for doing business with the U.S. Government.
- Entities continue to register in SAM.gov using the DUNS number assigned by D&B.
- Entity uniqueness continues to be validated by D&B as part of the DUNS number assignment process.
- GSA published updated technical specifications, which include the new SAM-generated UEI, for interfacing systems in December 2019.
- GSA develops the tools needed to generate UEIs.
- GSA develops an interface to new entity validation service provider to determine entity uniqueness.
- GSA supports robust testing of new interfaces with agency systems.
- GSA communicates upcoming changes to stakeholders, sharing more detail as available
- The SAM-generated UEI becomes the official identifier for doing business with the U.S. Government.
- Entities request new UEIs through SAM.gov before starting their entity registration.
- Entity uniqueness is determined by the new entity validation service provider.
Transition for Existing Entities:
- Your registration will automatically be assigned a new UEI which will be displayed in SAM.gov.
- The purpose of registration, core data, assertions, representations & certifications, points of contacts, etc. in SAM.gov will not change and no one will be required to re-enter this data.
Audit and Oversight – Accountability for Federal Funds
Government Quality Control of Federal Agencies
The DATA Act lies out reporting responsibilities for both the Inspector General of each agency to review a statistically valid sampling of spending data and complete reports assessing the completeness, timeliness, quality, and accuracy of the data sampled and the implementation and use of data standards by Federal agencies. This act also requires the Comptroller General after reviewing the Inspector General reports to also complete their own report assessing and comparing the data completeness, timeliness, quality, and accuracy of the data submitted under this Act by Federal agencies and the implementation and use of data standards by Federal agencies.
Audits for Prime Recipients
For prime recipients that are required to have an audit and make first tier awards, OMB’s Compliance Supplement for the period be audited can provide insight on what their auditors will be looking for and requesting related to the reporting requirements under FFATA. The Compliance Supplement is a document that identifies existing, important compliance requirements that the federal government expects to be considered as part of an audit. The Supplement provides a source of information for auditors to understand the federal program’s objectives, procedures, and compliance requirements subject to the audit as well as audit objectives and suggested audit procedures for determining compliance with these requirements. In turn, the Supplement can also provide insight for these prime recipients in terms of what will be tested as it relates to FFATA and its requirements.
The most recent Compliance Supplement is the 2020 Compliance Supplement and its related Supplement Addendum (December 2020). The Addendum is used in conjunction with other parts and appendices of the 2020 Compliance Supplement published in August 2020 in determining the appropriate audit procedures to support the auditor’s opinion on compliance for each major program with expenditures of COVID-19 awards. Both documents provide for guidance related to the FFATA reporting.
For all COVID-19 programs included in the OMB Compliance Supplement Addendum, with the exception of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), in which the reporting type of compliance requirement is marked as a Y in the Part 2 Matrix of Compliance Requirements indicating it is subject to audit, auditors must test the compliance with the reporting requirements of 2 CFR Part 170 and/or applicable FAR clauses (for sub-contracts) using the guidance in this section when the auditor determines reporting to be direct and material and the recipient makes first tier awards.
In addition, for audits of fiscal year ends after September 30, 2020, the requirement in the previous paragraph is extended to all selected major programs, regardless of whether COVID-19 funding is involved (except for CRF). That is, for all major programs in which the Part 2 matrix is marked as Y for the reporting type of compliance requirement, auditors must test compliance with the reporting requirements of 2 CFR Part 170 and/or applicable FAR clauses (for sub-contracts) using the guidance in this section when the auditor determines reporting to be direct and material and the recipient makes first tier subawards. This testing is in addition to the other financial, performance, or special reporting requirements that may be identified in parts 3 (section 3.L), 4, and 5 of the OMB Compliance Supplement and Addendum. This requirement also extends to major programs not included in the 2020 Compliance Supplement when the auditors determine reporting to be direct and material and the recipient makes first tier subawards.
Many sources of information support USAspending.gov, linking data from a variety of government systems to improve transparency on federal spending for the public. Data is uploaded directly from more than a hundred federal agencies' financial systems. Data is also pulled or derived from other government systems. Recipients’ data, as stated earlier, is entered into FSRS and SAM. In the end, more than 400 points of data are collected.
Federal agencies submit contract, grant, loan, direct payment, and other award data at least twice a month to be published on USAspending.gov. Federal agencies upload data from their financial systems and link it to the award data quarterly. This quarterly data must be certified by the agency's Senior Accountable Official before it is displayed on USAspending.gov.
With the data from all these sources, the site provides interactive tools allowing the public to access comprehensive U.S. government spending data. Examples of what is available include 1) who received federal contracts or grants, 2) their geographic breakdowns and 3) different breakdowns of federal agency information (e.g. spending by category or by prime award). Their Spending Explorer is a tool that provides an interactive way to explore federal spending by Budget Function (e.g. National Defense, Transportation, Health), Agency spending and Object Class which are types of items or services (e.g. grants and acquisition of assets).
In addition, the site includes a location called Data Lab which provides analyses of the available data. The following section discusses this part of the website’s function.
Data Lab launched in September 2017 to provide the public with a better understanding of government spending. Data Lab’s mission is to promote transparency of government finances by providing engaging and informative data-driven analyses of federal spending data. This site demonstrates how open data can be used to inspire innovation both inside and outside of the government. Since launching, they have added Your Guide to America’s Finances, a re-invention of the Financial Report of the U.S. Government and published nine analyses on Data Lab. Additionally, according to the USAspending.gov site, Data Lab helps the Office of Chief Data Officer, within the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, to deliver on the Department of the Treasury’s strategic goal of increasing access to and the use of federal financial data by the public and federal agencies.
Data Lab’s main data sources are the sister sites, USAspending.gov and Fiscal Data.
Additionally, the Office of the Chief Data Officer partners with other government agencies to acquire data or utilize other publicly available data sources from reliable sources for our analyses. You can find more detailed information about the data sources used in the “Data Sources and Methodologies” at the end of each analysis.
Other FFATA Resources
GRANTS.GOV Grant Policies -This location provides a short summary of FFATA given that grants are an important component of this act.
OMB FFATA guidance
Past OMB guidance issued for federal agencies on FFATA
Humentum and its member organizations have long expressed concerns and offered suggestions related to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. Below is a timeline of comment letters in response to relevant Federal Register publications.