Tuesday, October 18, 2011
OMB sponsors several collaborative initiatives that reach across federal, state, and local boundaries. One, the Collaborative Forum, which is supported by the Partnership Fund, just recently relocated its support functions to the National Academy of Publi
OMB sponsors several collaborative initiatives that reach across federal, state, and local boundaries. One, the Collaborative Forum, which is supported by the Partnership Fund, just recently relocated its support functions to the National Academy of Public Administration. The Academy will become the intersection for a series of intergovernmental working groups that will highlight and pilot new innovative approaches to improving cost-effective services.

A series of separate initiatives to encourage innovative cross-agency and cross-governmental efforts seem to be beginning to connect the dots among themselves.  These include:

To encourage collaboration around these initiatives, OMB is supporting a collaborative process with state and federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations which is called the Collaborative Forum.

What Is the Partnership Fund?

Congress authorized in 2009 the Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation and appropriated $32.5 million to support pilot projects over a three-year period.  According to OMB’s second semi-annual report to Congress on the Fund’s progress in October 2010, the Fund “is focused on finding, testing, and evaluating smarter ways to deliver services in Federal and state assistance programs.”  The pilot projects selected need to “save at least as much money as they cost.”

According to its third report in April 2011, its goals are to:

  • improve payment accuracy
  • improve administrative efficiency
  • improve service delivery
  • reduce access barriers for eligible beneficiaries

OMB has created a Federal Steering Committee, comprised of ten federal stakeholders such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Domestic Policy Council.  It has also created a Collaborative Forum to help identify potentially innovative pilot projects and showcase state-level best practices.  For example, one best practice is the use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards – like a debit card – to distribute benefits such as food stamps.  This dramatically reduced program fraud.  One of the pilot projects being developed is to use a similar approach to reduce widespread fraud in other programs such as payments of the Earned Income Tax Credit.  This would also improve customer service as well as reduce the potential for fraud.

The Fund created a four-step collaborative process for selecting pilots to support:

  • Submission of a pilot “idea” by federal agencies, states, or other stakeholders.
  • Refinement of the idea into a pilot “concept.”
  • Federal Steering Committee review and OMB approval.
  • Transfer funds to a lead federal agency, which then uses a merit-based process to select specific pilot project.

The Partnership Fund, according to OMB, “is a unique program.  IT fosters non-traditional partnerships across levels of government and between the public and private sectors.”

What is the Collaborative Forum?

The Collaborative Forum is an independent entity led by the states that includes more than 200 participants from all 50 states, more than 10 federal agencies, and over 65 other stakeholders such as the National Association of State Chief Information Officers; the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers; the American Public Human Services Association; and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

The Forum’s online community began in early 2011 with four working groups to guide the development of pilot projects aimed at improving payment accuracy without diminishing access to these benefits by eligible participants. Even interested members of the public can join the online community by registering here.  These working groups cover areas such as:

  • Shared systems
  • auditing
  • eligibility and service delivery mechanisms
  • data sharing, matching, or aggregating.

A new work group – integration and interoperability in health and human services – was created in response to ideas originating in forum discussions. The Forum is “a central portal for work groups to convene, facilitate webinars, exchange ideas, and post concept papers, newsletters, meeting minutes, and program award announcements.”

What Is the Fund and Forum’s Vision?

Based on a roundtable of key stakeholders convened in the Spring of 2011, the Fund is developing a high-level vision for serving citizens by focusing on three key elements:

  • Outcomes-focused programs: Responsible officials at all levels of Government should have more operational freedom to work across programs in defining and achieving outcomes demonstrated through strong evidence and data. 
  • Client-enabled service delivery: Clients should be provided with tools and information to increase their control over how they access services and measure performance, and at their option, shared use of personal information to deliver service successfully, in a manner consistent with privacy law and policy.
  • Shared data and services across programs: Policies and business systems should provide for a more flexible but secure regime for sharing data and services across jurisdictions, thereby enabling greater efficiency and effectiveness in achieving outcomes and meeting client needs.

Results of the roundtable are summarized in a recent IBM Center report, “The Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation: Expanding Ways to Provide Cost-Effective Services,” along with an earlier blog post by IBM Center senior fellow Dan Chenok.