8.1 Review Panels and Panelists
To the extent not inconsistent with local laws, rules or regulations, the Agency shall establish a review panel to review applications and make recommendations for award(s) as follows:
(a) After the NOFA has been published and the RFA released, the Agency shall appoint a review panel. The panel shall be comprised of a minimum of three individuals with knowledge and expertise in the objectives of the grant and RFA, as well as in the administrative requirements mandated by the source of funds. Agencies shall avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest in appointing people to their review panels. The external review panel shall score the applications and make recommendations on which applications should be funded. Final decisions on awards and amounts shall be made by the head of the Agency or, as appropriate, the Agency’s governing board or commission.
(b) Panelists shall sign affidavits certifying that they have no personal or vested interest in the organizations that submitted applications in response to the RFA. Affidavit forms may be obtained from appropriate Agency personnel. Agencies are encouraged to develop a registry to use for recruiting review panelists in a manner consistent with this section.
(c) Panelists who are not employees of the District government may be compensated for time served on a panel in accordance with subsection (d). Panelists who are employees of the District government may not be compensated and may only serve if they have written authorization from their supervisors to serve on a panel.
(d) The administering Agency may compensate review panelists, provided that funds have been authorized and appropriated for such purpose, at a rate that obtains the best qualified panelists at one of the following rates: (1) the maximum rate allowable by the federal grantor Agency for its own review panelists, (2) the amount available in the administrative budget of the grant or subgrant, or (3) the maximum daily rate of a current DS-15 pay scale for the Agency.
(e) The Agency shall ensure that the review panelists have the information needed to serve on a panel. The Agency shall convene a meeting of the panelists prior to the review activities and instruct them on the goals and objectives of the grant and the RFA, the scoring criteria and instruments, and the timeframe for completion of the panel’s work.
(f) After a review panel has completed its work, the Agency shall evaluate each panelist’s performance and keep evaluations on file for a period of three years after the close-out of the grant or sub-grant awarded by that panel. All materials received by the Agency or a panel member from any applicant shall be protected, treated as confidential, and used only for purposes of evaluating the applicant’s proposal.
8.2 Competition Preferred
The Agency shall conduct the grantmaking award processes in a manner that provides full and open competition. To achieve this, agencies should avoid actions and practices that limit competition including, but not limited to:
- Placing unreasonable requirements on firms or organizations in order for them to qualify to do business;
- Requiring unnecessary experience and excessive bonding;
- Noncompetitive pricing practices between firms or organizations or between affiliated companies or organizations;
- Noncompetitive awards to consultants that are on retainer contracts;
- Organizational conflicts of interest;
- Specifying only a “brand name” product instead of allowing “an equal product” to be offered;
- Overly restrictive specifications; and,
- Any arbitrary action in the grantmaking process.
8.3 Performance Standards
With the exception of earmarks and grants exempted by a decision of the waiver committee, the Agency shall establish standards for grantees in making determinations of demonstrated performance prior to the award of all grants and subgrants. The standards shall require that determinations of demonstrated ability to perform be in writing and completed prior to the award of a grant or subgrant.
Awards are to be made to organizations possessing the demonstrated ability to perform successfully under the terms and conditions of a proposed grant or subgrant. When comparable, fundable proposals have been received from two applicants for a grant or subgrant and one applicant has been designated “high-risk” by an Agency, the award should be made to the applicant that has demonstrated the ability to perform but has the lowest risk assessment, unless other factors indentified in the RFA permit a contrary result.
Determinations of demonstrated performance shall be in writing and take into consideration such matters as whether the organization has:
- Adequate financial resources or the ability to obtain them;
- The ability to meet the program design specifications at a reasonable and competitive cost, as well as the ability to meet performance goals;
- A satisfactory record of past performance in the grant or subgrant subject area, including demonstrated quality of service delivery;
- Documentation that the grantee has the legal status (i.e. business license, non-profit incorporation, etc.) to conduct business within the District of Columbia;
- A satisfactory record of integrity, business ethics, and fiscal accountability;
- The necessary organization, experience, accounting and operational controls; and,
- The technical skills to perform the work.
8.4 Consideration of High-Risk Applicants
A grantee shall be considered “high-risk” if the Agency determines that the grantee or recipient is otherwise responsible but:
- Has been designated “high risk” by the Federal or other entity providing the grant;
- Has a history of unsatisfactory performance;
- Is not financially stable;
- Has a management system which does not meet the management standards set forth in this part; or
- Has not conformed to terms and conditions of a previous award.
If, after the RFA process is complete, the Agency determines that an award will be made to a high-risk grantee or recipient, because it is the applicant that can deliver services in a particular area, then special funding restrictions that address the high-risk status may be included in the award. Funding restrictions may include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Payment on a reimbursement basis and or the required advance posting of a security bond;
- Requiring additional and/or more detailed financial or performance reports;
- Additional monitoring;
- Requiring the grantee or recipient to obtain specific technical or management assistance; and,
- Establishing additional prior approvals.
If the Agency decides to impose such funding restrictions, the Agency will notify the grantee as early as possible, in writing, of:
- The nature of the funding restrictions;
- The reason(s) for imposing them;
- The corrective actions which must be taken before the restrictions will be removed and the time allowed for completing the corrective actions; and,
- The method of requesting reconsideration of the restrictions imposed.
8.5 Excepted Awards
If the Agency awards an earmark, sole source or unsolicited proposal, the Agency need not use a review panel.
The Agency shall internally evaluate and score any sole source or unsolicited proposal using the same criteria that would have been applied to a competitive solicitation. The Agency shall prepare a written “sole source justification” memorandum signed by the Director of the Agency explaining the circumstances that justified the absence of competition and maintain in the Agency’s file for the time period listed in section 5.5.
8.6 Selection and Approval Procedure
The Agency shall decide who shall be awarded a grant or subgrant in accordance with the following:
(a) After the grant or subgrant officer has received the evaluations and records of the review panel, the head of the Agency or his/her designee shall make decisions on award and amount of each grant or subgrant, subject to the advice of any advisory body required by law or regulation for the funding grant.
(b) If the Agency director or his/her designee decides not to follow the review panel’s recommendation, the Director or his/her designee shall provide a written justification in the grant records. Such justification shall include a strong rationale supported by documentation for the decision to not follow the review panel’s recommendation.
8.7 Perfecting the Award: Certification and Documentation
Before an award can be given final approval and deemed formally awarded, a Certification must be obtained for all proposed awards within a fiscal year. This Certification will be issued by the Grant Officer for the Agency making the award indicating that grant amount has been appropriated and budgeted for the fiscal year, and shall be approved by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. This process is set forth as follows:
(a) Review by Agency Grant Officer. The Agency’s Grant Officer (“AGO”) or his/her designee, working with the AFO, shall prepare a written memorandum that indicates the Agency has budgeted the grant funds for the award in the current fiscal year and identifies the fund detail, program/activity, where such funds are budgeted in the Agency and attests that such funds are available in the amount of the proposed grant or subgrant and that award of the grant or subgrant as proposed will not place the Agency in violation of the District’s Anti-Deficiency Act.
(b) Review by Agency Director. After a proposed grant or subgrant award is finalized by an Agency Grant Officer, it shall be submitted to the Director for that Agency and, once signed by him/her, forwarded to the Agency’s Fiscal Officer (“AFO”). The Agency Director or his designee shall review the award documentation to verify that the proposed award is in fact eligible for the subgrant.
(c) Review by AFO. The AFO or his/her designee shall review the information to be submitted by the Agency to ensure that all required documentation is included and is properly signed and dated. The AFO shall also review the AGO memorandum to verify that, at the time of submission of the proposed award, the Agency has proper, current, adequate and unencumbered budget authority to pay the grant or subgrant in the full amount of the proposed award. If the AFO does not approve the proposed grant or subgrant, the award documentation shall be returned to the Agency Grant Office along with a written explanation.
8.8 Agency Post-Award Responsibilities
Before the Agency issues the award documents to successful applicants, it shall notify in writing each applicant whose application was not selected for award. This notification may include copies of the reviewers’ evaluation and comments, but without identification of the reviewer. The Agency Director has the discretion to review any claims against the process; however, he or she shall have the final decision on any change to the original funding decision. Any changes in funding must be communicated to the Agency’s financial officer and the amount recertified by OCFO as available.
The Agency shall establish the official records of awarded grants or subgrants. The Agency shall incorporate into the award files and retain the records of all awarded applications and subsequent reports for a period that is the greater of; 1) three (3) years, or 2) the time required by the applicable law, regulation or agreement governing the funding for such grant. The active retention period for funds awarded under federal grants is governed by applicable federal regulations.7 Agencies may require a retention period longer than three (3) years.
7 The active retention period is usually three (3) years from the date when the final programmatic and financial reports are submitted to the federal grantor or, if an audit is conducted within that three-year period, the date when the audit report is officially closed. However, Agencies should check the appropriate section(s) of the Code of Federal Regulations that govern their award and subgrant recipient.