September 25, 2021


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DRL Supporting Sudan’s Democratic Transition

58 min read

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

United States Department of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL)
Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): 
DRL Supporting Sudan’s Democratic Transition

This is the announcement of funding opportunity number SFOP0006998

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number:  19.345

Type of Solicitation: Open Competition

Application Deadline:  11:59 PM EST on 9, July 2020

Funding Floor:  $2 million

Funding Ceiling:  $2 million

Anticipated Number of Awards:  1-2

Type of Award: Grant

Period of Performance:  12-18 months

Anticipated Time to Award, Pending Availability of Funds:  2-3 months

A. Project Description

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for a project in Sudan that supports accountability and protecting civic space during Sudan’s 39-month transition period culminating with the holding of free and fair elections.

DRL’s goal is a successful democratic transition in Sudan, with a focus on citizen responsiveness of the Civilian Led Transitional Government (CLTG). The objective of the program is to increase and protect civic space and empower community resiliency during the transitional period and in the lead up to elections.

As stipulated in the Draft Constitutional Declaration, Sudan’s 39-month transitional period will be concluded through the holding of national elections. Reaching this stage, however, will require significant steps that are already behind schedule. Currently, the legal and operational framework for elections does not exist. Additionally, the formation of the Transitional Legislative Council is delayed, the National Elections Commission has yet to be formed, and its mandate has yet to be codified. Other key commissions required in the Constitutional Declaration are not formed, and civilian governors have not yet been appointed.

As timelines slip, especially with the outbreak of COVID-19, there will be increased political pressure to expedite key decisions in Sudan’s transition. This exigency may result in legal provisions and electoral operations being developed/conducted without adequate participation and input from all segments of Sudan’s diverse society.

To respond to these challenges, DRL is requesting proposals for programs that work to protect and expand civic space during Sudan’s transitional period and in the lead up to the country’s first post-revolution elections. Applicants should place emphasis on activities that ensure political and electoral processes are inclusive of historically marginalized populations in Sudan, and important decisions are not dominated by traditionally dominate factions in the riverine area.

Overall program priorities could include:

Strengthen citizen capacity to monitor and provide oversight around electoral and political processes, thereby enhancing accountability and transparency of the Civilian Led Transitional Government. Activities can include support to civil society to monitor and report on key political processes and institutions during the transition period.  Possible activities include citizen report cards on members of the Transitional Legislative Council; tracking and reporting on key legislation; ensuring a transparent and inclusive voter registration process; support for electoral violence forecasting, monitoring, and mitigation activities; monitoring of campaign finance; and ensuring the rights of the media, candidates and voters are all respected by authorities.

Strengthen civil society capacity to conduct advocacy around the electoral framework and the implementation of legal reforms that respond to citizen needs. Activities can include technical support to civil society organizations advocating for fair electoral and political processes and the facilitation of multi-stakeholder groups that bring citizens and government institutions together. Issues for advocacy can include, but are not limited to, the composition, independence and activities of commissions mandated in the Draft Constitutional Declaration; ensuring legislation considered by ministries and the Transitional Legislative Council complies with human rights standards and the Draft Constitutional Declaration; and ensuring the legal framework for elections does not marginalize any segments of society (through, for example, the fair delimitation of electoral boundaries; design of an electoral system; development of laws pertaining to electoral finance, candidate and party registration; and an accessible system to receive and adjudicate electoral disputes). Support can also include technical assistance in the drafting of legislation and legal provisions, including through facilitating legal exchanges and internship programs.

Support democratic government entities to interact with citizens and respond to their needs. Possible activities can include building sustainable methods for government entities to interact with citizens, such as constituency outreach and public hearings, voter education and mobilization campaigns, or innovative use of technology and media to create feedback channels. All activities should include a priority focus on communities outside of the capital area and historically marginalized populations.

Applications should demonstrate a strong capacity to establish partnerships with relevant stakeholders. All proposals must demonstrate awareness of ongoing programs in this space, especially those that are USG-funded.  DRL will coordinate with USAID on proposal review and program implementation.  Successful applicants should demonstrate how the proposed program complements and does not duplicate existing efforts.

All programs should aim to have impact that leads to reforms and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources.  DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches.  This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.  Programs should seek to include groups that can bring perspectives based on their religion, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.  Programs should be demand-driven and locally led to the extent possible.  DRL requires all programs to be non-discriminatory and expects implementers to include strategies for integration of individuals/organizations regardless of religion, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.

Only proposals for $2 million will be considered competitive. This information should indicate what objective(s) and/or activities could be accomplished with additional time and/or funds beyond the proposed period of performance.
Where appropriate, competitive proposals may include:

  • Opportunities for beneficiaries to apply their new knowledge and skills in practical efforts;
  • Solicitation of feedback and suggestions from beneficiaries when developing activities in order to strengthen the sustainability of programs and participant ownership of project outcomes;
  • Input from participants on sustainability plans and systematic review of the plans throughout the life of the project, with adjustments made as necessary;
  • Inclusion of vulnerable populations;
  • Joint identification and definition of key concepts with relevant stakeholders and stakeholder input into project activities;
  • Systematic follow up with beneficiaries at specific intervals after the completion of activities to track how beneficiaries are retaining new knowledge as well as applying their new skills.

Activities that are not typically allowed include, but are not limited to:

  • The provision of humanitarian assistance;
  • English language instruction;
  • Development of high-tech computer or communications software and/or hardware;
  • Purely academic exchanges or fellowships;
  • External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months;
  • Off-shore activities that are not clearly linked to in-country initiatives and impact or are not necessary per security concerns;
  • Theoretical explorations of human rights or democracy issues, including projects aimed primarily at research and evaluation that do not incorporate training or capacity-building for local civil society;
  • Micro-loans or similar small business development initiatives;
  • Initiatives directed towards a diaspora community rather than current residents of targeted countries.

This notice is subject to availability of funding.

B. Federal Award Information

The U.S. government may (a) reject any or all applications, (b) accept other than the lowest cost application, (c) accept more than one application, and (d) waive irregularities in applications received.

The U.S. government may make award(s) on the basis of initial applications received, without discussions or negotiations.  Therefore, each initial application should contain the applicant’s best terms from a cost and technical standpoint.  The U.S. government reserves the right (though it is under no obligation to do so), however, to enter into discussions with one or more applicants in order to obtain clarifications, additional detail, or to suggest refinements in the project description, budget, or other aspects of an application.

DRL anticipates awarding either a grant or cooperative agreement depending on the needs and risk factors of the program.  The final determination on award mechanism will be made by the Grants Officer.  The distinction between grants and cooperative agreements revolves around the existence of “substantial involvement.”  Cooperative agreements require greater Federal government participation in the project.  If a cooperative agreement is awarded, DRL will undertake reasonable and programmatically necessary substantial involvement.  Examples of substantial involvement can include, but are not limited to:

  • Active participation or collaboration with the recipient in the implementation of the award.
  • Review and approval of one stage of work before another can begin.
  • Review and approval of substantive provisions of proposed subawards or contracts beyond existing Federal policy.
  • Approval of the recipient’s budget or plan of work prior to the award.

The authority for this funding opportunity is found in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA).

To maximize the impact and sustainability of the award(s) that result from this NOFO, DRL retains the right to execute non-competitive continuation amendment(s).  The total duration of any award, including potential non-competitive continuation amendments, shall not exceed 60 months, or five years.  Any non-competitive continuation is contingent on performance and pending availability of funds.  A non-competitive continuation is not guaranteed and the Department of State reserves the right to exercise or not to exercise this option.
DRL may require successful applicant(s) to incorporate coordination of an implementer and stakeholder meeting into the Scope of Work of the final project.  DRL will discuss this possibility with particular applicant(s) during the proposal negotiation phase and may include, but not limited to the following:

  • Additional funding to cover cost of the stakeholder meeting;
  • Coordinating all logistics and hosting the meeting;
  • Assisting applicants with visas;
  • Drafting the agenda in coordination with DRL;
  • Preparing all materials for the meeting;
  • Securing outside speakers for the conference; and
  • Hosting a networking event outside of the meeting space.

C. Eligibility Information

For application information, please see the proposal submission instructions (PSI) on our website.

C.1 Eligible Applicants

DRL welcomes applications from U.S.-based and foreign-based non-profit organizations/nongovernment organizations (NGO) and public international organizations; private, public, or state institutions of higher education; and for-profit organizations or businesses.  DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be some occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited.

Applications submitted by for-profit entities may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process.  Additionally, the Department of State prohibits profit to for-profit or commercial organizations under its assistance awards.  Profit is defined as any amount in excess of allowable direct and indirect costs.  The allowability of costs incurred by commercial organizations is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) at 48 CFR 30, Cost Accounting Standards Administration, and 48 CFR 31 Contract Cost Principles and Procedures.

Please see 2 CFR 200.307 for regulations regarding program income.

C.2 Cost Sharing or Matching

Providing cost sharing, matching, or cost participation is not an eligibility factor or requirement for this NOFO, and providing cost share will not result in a more favorable competitive ranking.

C.3 Other

Applicants should have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with thematic or in-country partners, entities, and relevant stakeholders, including private sector partners and NGOs, and have demonstrable experience in administering successful and preferably similar projects.  DRL encourages applications from foreign-based NGOs headquartered in the geographic regions/countries relevant to this NOFO.  Applicants may form consortia in order to bring together organizations with varied expertise to propose a comprehensive program in one proposal.  However, one organization should be designated in the proposal as the lead applicant, with the other members designated as sub-award partners.  DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on applicants that do not have previous experience administering federal grant awards, and these applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.

DRL is committed to an anti-discrimination policy in all of its projects and activities.  DRL welcomes applications irrespective of race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other status.

Any applicant listed on the Excluded Parties List System in the System for Award Management ( ( and/or has a current debt to the U.S. government is not eligible to apply for an assistance award in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 CFR 180 that implement Executive Orders 12549 (3 CFR,1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR,1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.”  Additionally, no entity or person listed on the Excluded Parties List System in can participate in any activities under an award.  All applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Excluded Parties List System in to ensure that no ineligible entity or person is included in their application.

D. Application and Submission Information

D.1 Address to Request Application Package

Applicants can find application forms, kits, or other materials needed to apply on and SAMS Domestic ( under the announcement title “DRL Supporting Sudan’s Democratic Transition,” funding opportunity number “SFOP0006998.”  Please contact the DRL point of contact listed in Section G if requesting reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities or for security reasons.  Please note that reasonable accommodations do not include deadline extensions.

D.2 Content and Form of Application Submission

For all application documents, please ensure:

  • All documents are in English and all costs are in U.S. dollars.  If an original document within the application is in another language, an English translation must be provided (please note the Department of State, as indicated in 2 CFR 200.111, requires that English is the official language of all award documents.  If any document is provided in both English and a foreign language, the English language version is the controlling version);
  • All pages are numbered, including budgets and attachments;
  • All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper; and,
  • All documents are single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins.  Captions and footnotes may be 10-point Times New Roman font.  Font sizes in charts and tables, including the budget, can be reformatted to fit within 1 page width.

D.2.1 Application Requirements

Complete applications must include the following:

  • Completed and signed SF-424, SF-424A, and SF-424B forms.  Please see SF-424 instructions in Section 2B of the PSI.
  • If your organization engages in lobbying the U.S. government, including Congress, or pays another entity to lobby on your behalf, the SF-LLL “Disclosure of Lobbying Activities” form is also required (only if applicable).  Please see SF-LLL guidance in Section 2B of the PSI.
  • Cover Page (not to exceed one (1) page, preferably as a Word Document) that includes a table with the organization name, project title, target country/countries, project synopsis, and name and contact information for the application’s main point of contact.  Please see Cover Page Section 2C of the PSI for a template and more details.
  • Executive Summary (not to exceed one (1) page, preferably as a Word Document) that outlines project goals, objectives, activities, etc.
    • The Executive Summary should include a brief section that explicitly states (1) the problem statement addressed by the project, (2) research-based evidence justifying the unique project approach, and (3) quantifiable project outcomes and impacts.
  • Table of Contents (not to exceed one (1) page, preferably as a Word Document) listing all documents and attachments with page numbers.
  • Proposal Narrative (not to exceed ten (10) pages, preferably as a Word Document).  Please note the ten-page limit does not include the Cover Page, Executive Summary, Table of Contents, Attachments, Detailed Budget, Budget Narrative, Audit, or NICRA.  Applicants are encouraged to combine multiple documents in a single Word Document or PDF (i.e. Cover Page, Table of Contents, Executive Summary, and Proposal Narrative in one file).  Please see Proposal Narrative Guidelines in Section 2F of the PSI for more details.
    • The Proposal Narrative should demonstrate the Applicant’s commitment to ensuring the participation of all people as a strategy for implementation.  Please integrate inclusion strategies in all sections of the Proposal Narrative to enhance programmatic impact.
  • Budget (preferably as an Excel workbook) that includes three (3) columns containing the request to DRL, any cost sharing contribution, and the total budget.  A summary budget should also be included using the OMB-approved budget categories (see SF-424A as a sample) in a separate tab.  Costs must be in U.S. dollars.  Detailed line-item budgets for subgrantees should be included as additional tabs within the Excel workbook (if available at the time of submission).  Please see Budget Guidelines Section 2G of the PSI for more information.
    • The programming approach should be dedicated to strengthening inclusive societies as a necessary pillar of strong democracies.  Please include costs associated with this commitment in the budget and budget narrative.
    • Competitive proposals may include a summary budget for 12 additional months following the proposed period of performance.
  • Budget Narrative (preferably as a Word Document) that includes substantive explanations and justifications for each line item in the detailed budget spreadsheet, as well as the source and a description of all cost-share offered.  Please see Budget Guidelines Section 2G of the PSI for more information.
    • Competitive proposals may include a summary budget narrative for 12 additional months following the proposed period of performance.
  • Your organization’s most recent audit, if applicable.  This should be a single audit, program-specific audit, or other audit in accordance with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS).  Please see Audit Section 2H of the PSI for more information.
  • Logic Model (preferably as a Word Document).  Please see Logic Model Section 2I of the PSI for more information.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative (not to exceed four (4) pages, preferably as a Word Document).  Please see Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative Section 2J of the PSI for more information.
    • As stated within the DRL Guide to Program Monitoring and Evaluation (p. 6): DRL strongly encourages applicants to consider whether their monitoring and evaluation systems are utilizing human rights-based approaches, applying a gender and equity lens, or include the participation of sub-grantees and project participants.  Within the Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative, applicants should demonstrate their commitment to inclusive strategies and consider whether evaluation design, data collection, analysis, reporting and learning are conducted in an ethical and responsible way with all project participants (e.g. direct beneficiaries, sub-grantees).  Applicants should still make adequate provisions to protect the privacy of human subjects when collecting data from individuals. For instance, when collecting data from project participants, consider whether your organization will have the necessary informed consent forms, confidentiality agreements, and data security protocols.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation Plan (preferably as a Word Document or Excel Sheet).  Please see Monitoring and Evaluation Plan Section 2J of the PSI for more information.
  • Risk Analysis (preferably as a Word Document).  Please see Risk Analysis Section 2K of the PSI for more information.
  • Key Personnel (not to exceed two (2) pages, preferably as a Word Document).  Please include short bios that highlight relevant professional experience.  Given the limited space, CVs are not recommended for submission.
  • Timeline (not to exceed one (1) page, preferably as a Word Document or Excel Sheet).  The timeline of the overall proposal should include activities, evaluation efforts, and program closeout.
  • Gender Analysis (not to exceed five (5) pages, preferably as a Word Document) that identifies and examines the relevance of gender norms and power relations in target countries and addresses how the organization will account for these dynamics throughout program design and implementation.  The analysis should consider institutional practices and barriers, cultural norms, gender roles, access to and control over assets and resources, and patterns of decision-making.  In conflict settings, the gender analysis should examine how gender norms interact with other factors to drive or mitigate conflict, the differential impact of conflict on women and men, and an understanding of the roles of women and men in conflict, peacebuilding, and transitional processes.  A set of guiding questions can be found in Section L of the PSI.
  • Security Plan addressing any issues involving in-person events and recruitment for said events, and safety for any online programs or communications, including independent IT security audits (to include a vulnerability assessment) of any proposed web application or platform.  Organization’s security plan should demonstrate consideration of the risks identified in the submitted risk assessment.  Costs may also be identified within the budget and budget narrative.  Applicants are also encouraged to include contingency plans for in-person or online activities.
  • Contingency Plan for proposed activities should the originally planned activities not be able to be implemented.  The contingency plan should be submitted as an additional annex.  Applicants should demonstrate consideration of the risks identified in the submitted risk assessment and include specific alternative activities or locations as part of the contingency plan.  Any proposed “plan” must comply with 2CFR200.433 – Contingency provisions.  Plans must not include unallocable or unallowable expenses, and must not result in a larger Total Award Value than the identified as the “competition ceiling.”  DRL requires prior approval by the Grants Officer of the “plan” before any activities can take place, or costs can be incurred against the “plan.”
  • Lessons Learned (not to exceed one (1) page, preferably as a Word Document) from past programs (insert country or theme) that demonstrate how the implementer has safely operated and responded to programmatic challenges, learning from both successes and failures, in the operating environment.

Applications that do not include the elements listed above will be deemed technically ineligible.  

D.2.2 Additional Application Documents

Strong applications will also contain the following:

  • Individual Letters of Support and/or Memorandum of Understanding.  Letters of support and MOUs must be specific to the project implementation (e.g. from proposed partners or sub-award recipients) and will not count towards the page limit.

Please refer to the Proposal Submission Instructions on DRL’s website for detailed guidance on the documents above:  For an application checklist and sample templates please see the Resources page on DRL’s website:  The sample templates provided on the DRL website are suggested, but not mandatory.

DRL reserves the right to request additional documents not included in this NOFO.  Additionally, to ensure that all applications receive a balanced evaluation, the DRL Review Panel will review from the first page of each section up to the page limit and no further.

Note:  If ultimately provided with a notification of non-binding intent to make a Federal award, applicants typically have two to three weeks to provide additional information and documents requested in the notification of intent.  The deadlines may vary in each notification of intent and applicants must adhere to the stated deadline in the notification of intent. 

D.2.3 Additional Information Requested For Those Receiving Notification of Intent

Successful applicants must submit after notification of intent to make a Federal award, but prior to issuance of a Federal award:

  • Written responses and revised application documents addressing conditions and recommendations from the DRL Review Panel;
  • If your organization has a NICRA and includes NICRA charges in the budget, your latest NICRA as a PDF file;
  • Completion of the Department’s Financial Management Survey, if receiving DRL funding for the first time;
  • Submission of required documents to register in the Payment Management System managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, if receiving DRL funding for the first time (unless an exemption is provided);
  • Other requested information or documents included in the notification of intent to make a Federal award or subsequent communications prior to issuance of a Federal award;
  • Applicants who submit their applications through will be required to create a SAMS Domestic account in order to accept the final award.  Accounts must be logged in to every 60 in order to maintain an active account.

D.3 Unique Entity Identifier and System for Award Management (SAM)

All prime organizations, whether based in the United States or in another country, must have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI), formerly referred to as DUNS, and an active registration with the before submitting an application.  DRL may not review applications from or make awards to applicants that have not completed all applicable UEI and requirements.  A UEI is one of the data elements mandated by Public Law 109-282, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), for all Federal awards.

The 2 CFR 200 requires that subgrantees obtain a UEI number.  Please note the UEI for subgrantees is not required at the time of application but will be required before the award is processed and/or directed to a subgrantee. 

Note:  The process of obtaining a registration may take anywhere from 4-8 weeks.  Please begin your registration as early as possible.

  • If you are based in the United States or pay employees within the United States, prior to registering in you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code.
  • If you are based outside of the United States and do not pay employees within the United States, you do not need an EIN from the IRS.  However, you will need a NATO CAGE (NCAGE) code before you can have an active registration in

All prime organizations must also continue to maintain active registration with current information at all times during which they have an active Federal award or application under consideration by a Federal award agency. requires all entities to renew their registration once a year in order to maintain an active registration status in SAM.  It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure it has an active registration in and to maintain that active registration.  If an applicant has not fully complied with the requirements at the time of application, the applicant may be deemed technically ineligible to receive an award and use that determination as a basis for making an award to another applicant.

For further guidance on the registration process, please see the Registration Guide on DRL’s website:  Please refer to 2 CFR 25.200 for additional information.  Also, please refer to Section D.5 – Funding Restriction of the NOFO.

Note: is not the same as SAMS Domestic.  It is free to register in both systems, but the registration processes are different.

In October 2017, new information was added to the website to help international registrations, including “Quick Start Guide for International Registrations” and “Helpful Hints.”  Navigate to, click HELP in the top navigation bar, then click International Registrants in the left navigation panel.  Please note, guidance on and the guidance on GSA’s website about requirement for registering in is subject to change.  Applicants should review the website for the most up-to-date guidance.

D.3.1 Exemptions

An exemption from these requirements may be permitted on a case-by-case basis if:

  • An applicant’s identity must be protected due to potential endangerment of their mission, their organization’s status, their employees, or individuals being served by the applicant. 

** Organizations requesting exemption from UEI or requirements must email the point of contact listed in the NOFO at least two weeks prior to the deadline in the NOFO providing a justification of their request.  Approval for a exemption must come from the warranted Grant Officer before the application can be deemed eligible for review. **

Note:  Foreign organizations will be required to register with the NATO Support Agency (NSPA) to receive a NCAGE code in order to register in  NSPA will forward your registration request to the applicable National Codification Bureau (NCB) if your organization is located in a NATO or Tier 2 Sponsored Non-NATO Nation.  As of October 2019, NATO nations included Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.  As of October 2019, Tier 2 nations included Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Finland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, Serbia, Singapore, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, and Ukraine.  

NSPA and/or the appropriate NCB forwards all NCAGE code information to all Allied Committee 135 (AC/135) nations, which as of October 2019 also included Afghanistan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Egypt, Georgia, Japan, Jordan, North Macedonia, Oman, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Thailand.  All organizations are strongly advised to take this into consideration when assessing whether registration may result in possible endangerment.

D.4 Submission Dates and Times

Applications are due no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST), on 9, JULY2020 on or SAMDomestic (https://mygrants.servicenowservices.comunder the announcement title DRL Supporting Sudan’s Democratic Transition,” funding opportunity number “SFOP0006998.” and SAMS Domestic automatically log the date and time an application submission is made, and the Department of State will use this information to determine whether an application has been submitted on time.  Late applications are neither reviewed nor considered unless the DRL point of contact listed in Section G is contacted prior to the deadline and is provided with evidence of system errors caused by or SAMS Domestic ( that is outside of the applicant’s control and is the sole reason for a late submission.  Applicants should not expect a notification upon DRL receiving their application.

D.5 Funding Restrictions

DRL will not consider applications that reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization. Please refer the link for Foreign Terrorist Organizations:

Project activities whose direct beneficiaries are foreign militaries or paramilitary groups or individuals will not be considered for DRL funding given purpose limitations on funding.

In accordance with Department of State policy for terrorism, applicants are advised that successful passing of vetting to evaluate the risk that funds may benefit terrorists or their supporters is a condition of award.  If chosen for an award, applicants will be asked to submit information required by DS Form 4184, Risk Analysis Information (attached to this solicitation) about their company and its principal personnel.  Vetting information is also required for all sub-award performance on assistance awards identified by the Department of State as presenting a risk of terrorist financing.  Vetting information may also be requested for project beneficiaries and participants.  Failure to submit information when requested, or failure to pass vetting, may be grounds for rejecting your proposal prior to award.

The Leahy Law prohibits Department foreign assistance funds from supporting foreign security force units if the Secretary of State has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.  Per 22 USC §2378d(a) (2017), “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”  Restrictions may apply to any proposed assistance to police or other law enforcement.  Among these, pursuant to section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA), no assistance provided through this funding opportunity may be furnished to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country when there is credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.  In accordance with the requirements of section 620M of the FAA, also known as the Leahy law, project beneficiaries or participants from a foreign government’s security forces may need to be vetted by the Department before the provision of any assistance.  If a proposed grant or cooperative agreement will provide assistance to foreign security forces or personnel, compliance with the Leahy Law is required.

U.S. foreign assistance for Burma or Burmese beneficiaries is subject to restrictions.  This includes restrictions, pursuant to section 7043(a)(1)(C) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2019 (Div. F, P.L. 116-6)(SFOAA), on funds appropriated under title III of the act for assistance for Burma.  Section 7043(a)(1)(C) provides that such funds “may not be made available to any individual or organization if the Secretary of State has credible information that such individual or organization has committed a gross violation of human rights (GVHR), including against Rohingya and other minority groups, or that advocates violence against ethnic or religious groups or individuals in Burma.”  It further provides that such funds “may not be made available to any organization or entity controlled by the armed forces of Burma.”

Organizations should be cognizant of these restrictions when developing project proposals as these restrictions will require appropriate due diligence of program beneficiaries and collaboration with DRL to ensure compliance with these restrictions.  Program beneficiaries subject to GVHR due diligence vetting will include any individuals who are part of or were formerly part of the government, military, or nongovernmental armed groups.  Program beneficiaries subject to advocating or otherwise promoting violence due diligence vetting will include any individuals or entities that are beneficiaries of foreign assistance funding or support.  Due diligence vetting will include a review of open source materials.

Federal awards generally will not allow reimbursement of pre-award costs; however, the Grants Officer may approve pre-award costs on a case-by-case basis.  Generally, construction costs are not allowed under DRL awards.  For additional information, please see the DRL Proposal Submission Instructions for Applications:

D.6 Application Submission

All application submissions must be made electronically via or SAMS Domestic ( Both systems require registration by the applying organization.  Please note:  the registration process can take ten business days or longer, even if all registration steps are completed in a timely manner.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that it has an active registration in SAMS Domestic or  Applicants are required to document that the application has been received by SAMS Domestic or in its entirety.  DRL bears no responsibility for disqualification that result from applicants not being registered before the due date, for system errors in either SAMS Domestic or, or other errors in the application process.  Additionally you must save a screen shot of the checklist showing all documents submitted in case any document fails to upload successfully.

Faxed, couriered, or emailed documents will not be accepted.  Reasonable accommodations may, in appropriate circumstances, be provided to applicants with disabilities or for security reasons.  Applicants must follow all formatting instructions in the applicable NOFO and these instructions.

DRL encourages organizations to submit applications during normal business hours (Monday – Friday, 9:00AM – 5:00PM Eastern Standard Time (EST)).  If an applicant experiences technical difficulties and has contacted the appropriate helpdesk but is not receiving timely assistance (e.g. if you have not received a response within 48 hours of contacting the helpdesk), you may contact the DRL point of contact listed in the NOFO in Section G.  The point of contact may assist in contacting the appropriate helpdesk.

Note:  The Grants Officer will determine technical eligibility of all applications.

SAMS Domestic Applications:

Applicants using SAMS Domestic for the first time should complete their “New Organization Registration.”  To register with SAMS Domestic, click “Login to” and follow the “create an account” link.

Organizations must remember to save a screen shot of the checklist showing all documents submitted in case any document fails to upload successfully.

SAMS Domestic Help Desk:  
For assistance with SAMS Domestic accounts and technical issues related to the system, please contact the ILMS help desk by phone at +1 (888) 313-4567 (toll charges apply for international callers) or through the Self Service online portal that can be accessed from  Customer support is available 24/7. Applications:
Applicants who do not submit applications via SAMS Domestic may submit via

Please be advised that completing all the necessary registration steps for obtaining a username and password from can take more than two (2) weeks.

Please refer to the website for definitions of various “application statuses” and the difference between a submission receipt and a submission validation.  Applicants will receive a validation e-mail from upon the successful submission of an application.  Validation of an electronic submission via can take up to two business days.  Additionally, you must remember to save a screenshot of the checklist showing all documents submitted in case any document fails to upload successfully. Helpdesk: 

For assistance with, please call the Contact Center at +1 (800) 518-4726 or email  The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.

See  for a list of federal holidays.

E. Application Review Information

E.1 Proposal Review Criteria

The DRL Review Panel will evaluate each application individually against the following criteria, listed below in order of importance, and not against competing applications.  Please use the below criteria as a reference, but do not structure your application according to the sub-sections.

Quality of Project Idea

Applications should be responsive to the program framework and policy objectives identified in the NOFO, appropriate in the country/regional context, and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to DRL’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy.  Projects should have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term, sustainable reforms. DRL prefers new approaches that do not duplicate efforts by other entities.  This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.  In countries where similar activities are already taking place, an explanation should be provided as to how new activities will not duplicate or merely add to existing activities and how these efforts will be coordinated.  Proposals that promote creative approaches to recognized ongoing challenges are highly encouraged.  DRL prioritizes project proposals with inclusive approaches for advancing these rights.

Project Planning/Ability to Achieve Objectives

A strong application will include a clear articulation of how the proposed project activities contribute to the overall project objectives, and each activity will be clearly developed and detailed.  A comprehensive monthly work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and the logistical capacity of the organization.  Objectives should be ambitious yet measurable, results-focused and achievable in a reasonable time frame.  A complete application must include a logic model to demonstrate how the project activities will have an impact on its proposed objectives.  The logic model should match the objectives, outcomes, key activities, and outputs described in the narrative.  Applications should address how the project will engage relevant stakeholders and should identify local partners as appropriate.

If local partners have been identified, DRL strongly encourages applicants to submit letters of support from proposed in-country partners.  Additionally, applicants should describe the division of labor among the direct applicant and any local partners.  If applicable, applications should identify target geographic areas for activities, target participant groups or selection criteria for participants, and the specific roles of sub-awardees, among other pertinent details.

DRL recognizes that all programs have some level of risk due to internal/external variables that have the potential to adversely affect a program.  Risk management should address how the program design incorporates the identification, assessment, and management of key risk factors.  DRL will review the risk analysis based on the organization’s ability to identify risks that could have an impact on the overall program as well as how the organization will manage these risks.

Institution’s Record and Capacity

DRL will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants.  Applications should demonstrate an institutional record of successful democracy and human rights programs, including responsible fiscal management and full compliance with all reporting requirements for past grants.  Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the project’s objectives.  Projects should have potential for continued funding beyond DRL resources.

Addressing Barriers to Equal Participation

DRL strives to ensure its projects advance the rights and uphold the dignity of all persons.  As the U.S. government’s lead bureau dedicated to promoting democratic governance, DRL requests a programming approach dedicated to strengthening inclusive societies as a necessary pillar of strong democracies.  Violence targeting any members of society undermines collective security and threatens democracy.  DRL prioritizes inclusive and integrated program models that assess and address the barriers to access for individuals and groups based on their religion, gender, disabilities, ethnicity, or sexual orientation and gender identity.  Applicants should describe how programming will impact all of its beneficiaries, including support that specifically targets communities facing discrimination, and which may be under threat of violence.  This approach should be an integral part of both the concept and explicit design, and implementation of all proposed project activities, objectives, and monitoring.  Strong proposals will provide specific analysis, measures, and corresponding targets as appropriate.  Stakeholders shall identify the difference between opportunities and barriers to access, and design programs accordingly to not perpetuate these inequalities, but rather enhance programmatic impact by including all people in society.  The goal of this approach is to bring communities and those in power together in support of more stable and secure societies.

Cost Effectiveness

DRL strongly encourages applicants to clearly demonstrate project cost-effectiveness in their application, including examples of leveraging institutional and other resources.  However, cost-sharing or other examples of leveraging other resources are not required.  Inclusion of cost-sharing in the budget does not result in additional points awarded during the review process.  Budgets should have low and/or reasonable overhead and administration costs, and applicants should provide clear explanations and justifications for these costs in relation to the work involved.  All budget items should be clearly explained and justified to demonstrate necessity, appropriateness, and connection to the project objectives.

Please note:  If cost-share is included in the budget, the recipient must maintain written records to support all allowable costs that are claimed as its contribution to cost-share, as well as costs to be paid by the Federal government.  Such records are subject to audit.  In the event the recipient does not meet the minimum amount of cost-sharing as stipulated in the recipient’s budget, DRL’s contribution may be reduced in proportion to the recipient’s contribution.

Multiplier Effect/Sustainability

Applications should clearly delineate how elements of the project will have a multiplier effect and be sustainable beyond the life of the grant.  A good multiplier effect will have an impact beyond the direct beneficiaries of the grant (e.g. participants trained under a grant go on to train other people; workshop participants use skills from a workshop to enhance a national level election that affects the entire populace).  A strong sustainability plan may include demonstrating continuing impact beyond the life of a project or garnering other donor support after DRL funding ceases.

Project Monitoring and Evaluation

Complete applications will include a detailed M&E Narrative and M&E Plan, which detail how the project’s progress will be monitored and evaluated.  Incorporating well-designed monitoring and evaluation processes into a project is an efficient method for documenting the change (intended and unintended) that a project seeks.  Applications should demonstrate the capacity to provide objectives with measurable outputs and outcomes.

The quality of the M&E sections will be judged on the narrative explaining how both monitoring and evaluation will be carried out and who will be responsible for those related activities.  The M&E Narrative should explain how an external evaluation will be incorporated into the project implementation plan or how the project will be systematically assessed in the absence of one.  Please see the section on Monitoring and Evaluation Narrative in the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for more information on what is required in the narrative.

The output and outcome-based performance indicators should not only be separated by project objectives but also should match the objectives, outcomes, and outputs detailed in the logic model and proposal narrative.  Performance indicators should be clearly defined (i.e., explained how the indicators will be measured and reported) either within the table or with a separate Performance Indicator Reference Sheet (PIRS).  For each performance indicator, the table should also include baselines and quarterly and cumulative targets, data collection tools, data sources, types of data disaggregation, and frequency of monitoring and evaluation.  There should also be metrics to capture how project activities target those discriminated against or marginalized populations or addresses their concerns, where applicable.  Please see the section on Monitoring and Evaluation Plan in the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for more information on what is required in the plan.

E.2 Review and Selection Process

DRL strives to ensure that each application receives a balanced evaluation by a DRL Review Panel.  The Department’s Office of Acquisitions Management (AQM) will determine technical eligibility for all applications.  All technically eligible applications for a given NOFO are reviewed against the same seven criteria, which include quality of project idea, project planning/ability to achieve objectives, institutional record and capacity, inclusive programming, cost effectiveness, multiplier effect/sustainability, and project monitoring and evaluation.

Additionally, the DRL Review Panel will evaluate how the application addresses the NOFO request, U.S. foreign policy goals, and the priority needs of DRL overall.  DRL may also take into consideration the balance of the current portfolio of active projects, including geographic or thematic diversity, if needed.

In most cases, the DRL Review Panel includes representatives from DRL, the appropriate Department of State regional bureau (to include feedback from U.S. embassies), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) (to include feedback from USAID missions).  In some cases, additional panelists may participate, including from other Department of State bureaus or offices; U.S. government departments, agencies, or boards; representatives from partner governments; or representatives from entities that are in a public-private partnership with DRL.  At the end of the panel’s discussion about an application, the Panel votes on recommending the application for approval by the DRL Assistant Secretary.  If more applications are ultimately recommended for approval than DRL can fund, the Panel will rank the recommended applications in priority order for consideration by the DRL Assistant Secretary.  The Grants Officer Representative (GOR) for the eventual award does not vote on the panel.  All Panelists must sign non-disclosure agreements and conflicts of interest agreements.

DRL Review Panels may provide conditions and recommendations on applications to enhance the proposed project, which must be addressed by the applicant before further consideration of the award.  To ensure effective use of DRL funds, conditions or recommendations may include requests to increase, decrease, clarify, and/or justify costs and project activities.

F. Federal Award Administration Information

F.1 Federal Award Notices

DRL will provide a separate notification to applicants on the result of their applications.  Successful applicants will receive a letter electronically via email requesting that the applicant respond to Panel conditions and recommendations.  This notification is not an authorization to begin activities and does not constitute formal approval or a funding commitment.

Final approval is contingent on the applicant successfully responding to the Panel’s conditions and recommendations, being registered in required systems, including the U.S. government’s Payment Management System (PMS), unless an exemption is provided, and completing and providing any additional documentation requested by DRL or AQM.  Final approval is also contingent on Congressional notification requirements being met and final review and approval by the Department’s warranted Grants Officer.

The notice of Federal award signed by the Department’s warranted Grants Officers is the sole authorizing document.  If awarded, the notice of Federal award will be provided to the applicant’s designated Authorizing Official via SAMS Domestic to be electronically counter-signed in the system.

F.2 Administrative and National Policy and Legal Requirements

DRL requires all recipients of foreign assistance funding to comply with all applicable Department and Federal laws and regulations, including but not limited to the following:

The Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards set forth in 2 CFR Chapter 200 (Sub-Chapters A through F) shall apply to all non-Federal entities, except for assistance awards to Individuals and Foreign Public Entities.  Sub-Chapters A through E shall apply to all foreign organizations, and Sub-Chapters A through D shall apply to all U.S. and foreign for-profit entities. The applicant/recipient of the award and any sub-recipient under the award must comply with all applicable terms and conditions, in addition to the assurance and certifications made part of the Notice of Award.  The Department’s Standard Terms and Conditions can be viewed at

Additionally, DRL supports implementation of the Women Peace and Security Act of 2017, which highlights the U.S. commitment to the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, management, and resolution.  For additional information, please refer to the link:

Due to the determination made under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) for FY 2020, assistance that benefits the governments of the following countries may be subject to a restriction under the TVPA.  The Department of State determines on a case-by-case basis what constitutes assistance to a government; the general principles listed below apply.

Assistance to the government includes:

  • All branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial) at all levels (national, regional, local);
  • Public schools, universities, hospitals, and state-owned enterprises, as well as government employees;
  • Cash, training, equipment, services, or other assistance provided directly to the government, assistance provided to an NGO or other implementer for the benefit of the government, and assistance to government employees.

Additional requirements may be included depending on the content of the program.

F.3 Reporting

Applicants should be aware that DRL awards will require that all reports (financial and progress) are uploaded to the grant file in SAMS Domestic on a quarterly basis.  The Federal Financial Report (FFR or SF-425) is the required form for the financial reports and must be submitted in PMS, as well as a copy from PMS then uploaded to the grant file in SAMS Domestic.  The progress reports uploaded to the grant file in SAMS Domestic must include a narrative as described below and Project Indicators (or other mutually agreed upon format approved by the Grants Officer) for the F Framework indicators. The F Framework indicators will be reviewed and negotiated during the final stages of issuing an award.

Narrative progress reports should reflect the focus on measuring the project’s impact on the overarching objectives and should be compiled according to the objectives, outcomes, and outputs as outlined in the award’s Scope of Work (SOW) and in the Monitoring & Evaluation Narrative.  An assessment of the overall project’s impact should be included in each progress report.  Where relevant, progress reports should include the following sections:

  • Relevant contextual information (limited);
  • Explanation and evaluation of significant activities of the reporting period and how the activities reflect progress toward achieving objectives, including meeting benchmarks/targets as set in the M&E plan.  In addition, attach the M&E Plan, comparing the target and actual numbers for the indicators;
  • Any tangible impact or success stories from the project, when possible;
  • Copy of mid-term and/or final evaluation report(s) conducted by an external evaluator; if applicable;
  • Relevant supporting documentation or products related to the project activities (such as articles, meeting lists and agendas, participant surveys, photos, manuals, etc.) as separate attachments;
  • Description of how the Recipient is pursuing sustainability, including looking for sources of follow-on funding;
  • Any problems/challenges in implementing the project and a corrective action plan with an updated timeline of activities;
  • Reasons why established goals were not met;
  • Data for the required F Framework indicator(s) for the quarter as well as aggregate data by fiscal year:  Program Indicators or other mutually agreed upon format approved by the Grants Officer;
  • Proposed activities for the next quarter; and,
  • Additional pertinent information, including analysis and explanation of cost overruns or high unit costs, if applicable.

A final narrative and financial report must also be submitted within 90 days after the expiration of the award.

Please note:  Delays in reporting may result in delays of payment approvals and failure to provide required reports may jeopardize the recipient’s’ ability to receive future U.S. government funds.

DRL reserves the right to request any additional programmatic and/or financial project information during the award period.

G. Contact Information

For technical submission questions related to this NOFO, please contact

For assistance with SAMS Domestic accounts and technical issues related to the system, please contact the ILMS help desk by phone at +1 (888) 313-4567 (toll charges apply for international callers) or through the Self Service online portal that can be accessed from  Customer support is available 24/7.

Please note that establishing an account in SAMS Domestic may require the use of smartphone for multi-factor authentication (MFA).  If an applicant does not have accessibility to a smartphone during the time of creating an account, please contact the helpdesk and request instructions on MFA for Windows PC.

For assistance with accounts and technical issues related to using the system, please call the Contact Center at +1 (800) 518-4726 or email  The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.

For a list of federal holidays visit:

Except for technical submission questions, during the NOFO period U.S. Department of State staff in Washington and overseas shall not discuss this competition with applicants until the entire proposal review process has been completed and rejection and approval letters have been transmitted.

H. Other Information

Applicants should be aware that DRL understands that some information contained in applications may be considered sensitive or proprietary and will make appropriate efforts to protect such information.  However, applicants are advised that DRL cannot guarantee that such information will not be disclosed, including pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or other similar statutes.

The information in this NOFO and “DRL’s Proposal Submission Instructions for Applications Updated January 2020” is binding and may not be modified by any DRL representative.  Explanatory information provided by DRL that contradicts this language will not be binding.  Issuance of the NOFO and negotiation of applications does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government.  DRL reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets.

This NOFO will appear on, SAMS Domestic, and DRL’s website

Background Information on DRL and General DRL Funding

DRL has the mission of promoting democracy and protecting human rights globally.  DRL supports projects that uphold democratic principles, support and strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, prevent atrocities, combat and prevent violent extremism, and build civil society around the world.  DRL typically focuses its work in countries with egregious human rights violations, where democracy and human rights advocates are under pressure and where governments are undemocratic or in transition.

Additional background information on DRL and its efforts can be found on

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    In U.S GAO News
    In the government’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Congress and the administration have taken action on multiple fronts to address challenges that have contributed to catastrophic loss of life and profound economic disruption. These actions have helped direct much-needed federal assistance to support many aspects of public life, including local public health systems and private-sector businesses. However, the nation faces continued public health risks and economic difficulties for the foreseeable future. Among other challenges, the public health system, already strained from months of responding to COVID-19 cases, will face the additional task of managing the upcoming flu season. At the same time, many of the federal, state, and local agencies responsible for responding to the ongoing public health emergency are called on to prepare for and respond to the current hurricane season. Timely and concerted federal leadership will be required in responding to these and other challenges. GAO has identified lessons learned and issues in need of continued attention by the Congress and the administration, including the need to collect reliable data that can drive decision-making; to establish mechanisms for accountability and transparency; and to protect against ongoing cyber threats to patient information, intellectual property, public health data, and intelligence. Attention to these issues can help to make federal efforts as effective as possible. GAO has also identified a number of opportunities to help the federal government prepare for the months ahead while improving the ongoing federal response: Medical Supply Chain The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with support from the Department of Defense (DOD), have taken numerous, significant efforts to mitigate supply shortages and expand the medical supply chain. For example, the agencies have coordinated to deliver supplies directly to nursing homes and used Defense Production Act authorities to increase the domestic production of supplies. However, shortages of certain types of personal protective equipment and testing supplies remain due to a supply chain with limited domestic production and high global demand. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and FEMA have both identified shortages, and officials from seven of the eight states GAO interviewed in July and August 2020 identified previous or ongoing shortages of testing supplies, including swabs, reagents, tubes, pipettes, and transport media. Testing supply shortages have contributed to delays in turnaround times for testing results. Delays in processing test results have multiple serious consequences, including delays in isolating those who test positive and tracing their contacts in a timely manner, which can in turn exacerbate outbreaks by allowing the virus to spread undetected. In addition, states and other nonfederal entities have experienced challenges tracking supply requests made through the federal government and planning for future needs. GAO is making the following recommendations: HHS, in coordination with FEMA, should immediately document roles and responsibilities for supply chain management functions transitioning to HHS, including continued support from other federal partners, to ensure sufficient resources exist to sustain and make the necessary progress in stabilizing the supply chain. HHS, in coordination with FEMA, should further develop and communicate to stakeholders plans outlining specific actions the federal government will take to help mitigate supply chain shortages for the remainder of the pandemic. HHS and FEMA—working with relevant stakeholders—should devise interim solutions, such as systems and guidance and dissemination of best practices, to help states enhance their ability to track the status of supply requests and plan for supply needs for the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic response. HHS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) objected to GAO’s initial draft recommendations. GAO made revisions based on their comments. GAO maintains that implementation of its modified recommendations is both warranted and prudent. These actions could contribute to ensuring a more effective response by helping to mitigate challenges with the stability of the medical supply chain and the ability of nonfederal partners to track, plan, and budget for ongoing medical supply needs. Vaccines and Therapeutics Multiple federal agencies continue to support the development and manufacturing of vaccines and therapeutics to prevent and treat COVID-19. These efforts are aimed at accelerating the traditional timeline to create a vaccine (see figure). Traditional Timeline for Development and Creation of a Vaccine Note: See figure 5 in the report. As these efforts proceed, clarity on the federal government’s plans for distributing and administering vaccine, as well as timely, clear, and consistent communication to stakeholders and the public about those plans, is essential. DOD is supporting HHS in developing plans for nationwide distribution and administration of a vaccine. In September 2020, HHS indicated that it will soon send a report to Congress outlining a distribution plan, but did not provide a specific date for doing so. GAO recommends that HHS, with support from DOD, establish a time frame for documenting and sharing a national plan for distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccine, and in developing such a plan ensure that it is consistent with best practices for project planning and scheduling and outlines an approach for how efforts will be coordinated across federal agencies and nonfederal entities. DOD partially concurred with the recommendation, clarifying that it is supporting HHS in developing plans for nationwide distribution and administration of vaccine. HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but noted factors that complicate the publication of a plan. GAO maintains that a time frame is necessary so all relevant stakeholders will be best positioned to begin their planning.On September 16, 2020, HHS and DOD released two documents outlining a strategy for any COVID-19 vaccine. GAO will evaluate these documents and report on them in future work.GAO will also continue to conduct related work, including examining federal efforts to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. COVID-19 Data Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths exists among racial and ethnic minority groups, but GAO identified gaps in these data. To help address these gaps, on July 22, 2020, CDC released a COVID-19 Response Health Equity Strategy. However, the strategy does not assess whether having the authority to require states and jurisdictions to report race and ethnicity information is necessary to ensure CDC can collect such data. CDC’s strategy also does not specify how it will involve key stakeholders, such as health care providers, laboratories, and state and jurisdictional health departments. GAO recommends that CDC (1) determine whether having the authority to require the reporting of race and ethnicity information for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths is necessary for ensuring more complete data, and if so, seek such authority from Congress; (2) involve key stakeholders to help ensure the complete and consistent collection of demographic data; and (3) take steps to help ensure its ability to comprehensively assess the long-term health outcomes of persons with COVID-19, including by race and ethnicity. HHS agreed with the recommendations. In addition, HHS’s data on COVID-19 in nursing homes do not capture the early months of the pandemic. HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began requiring nursing homes to report COVID-19 data to CDC by May 17, 2020, starting with information as of May 8, 2020, but made reporting prior to May 8, 2020 optional. By not requiring nursing homes to submit data from the first 4 months of 2020, HHS is limiting the usefulness of the data in helping to understand the effects of COVID-19 in nursing homes. GAO recommends that HHS, in consultation with CMS and CDC, develop a strategy to capture more complete data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes retroactively back to January 1, 2020. HHS partially agreed with this recommendation by noting the value of having complete data, but expressed concern about the burden of collecting it. GAO maintains the importance of collecting these data to inform the government’s continued response and recovery, and HHS could ease the burden by incorporating data previously reported to CDC or to state or local public health offices. Economic Impact Payments The Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued economic impact payments (EIP) to all eligible individuals for whom IRS has the necessary information to do so; however, not everyone eligible was able to be initially identified. To help ensure all eligible recipients received their payments in a more timely manner, IRS took several actions to address challenges GAO reported on in June, including a policy change—reopening the Non-Filers tool registration period for federal benefit recipients and extending it through September 30—that should allow some eligible recipients to receive supplemental payments for qualifying children sooner than expected. However, Treasury and IRS lack updated information on how many eligible recipients have yet to receive these funds. The lack of such information could hinder outreach efforts and place potentially millions of individuals at risk of missing their payment. GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, (1) update and refine the estimate of eligible recipients who have yet to file for an EIP to help target outreach and communications efforts and (2) make estimates of eligible recipients who have yet to file for an EIP, and other relevant information, available to outreach partners to raise awareness about how and when to file for EIP. Treasury and IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations and described actions they are taking in concert with the recommendations to notify around 9 million individuals who may be eligible for an EIP. Coronavirus Relief Fund The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) is the largest program established in the four COVID-19 relief laws that provides aid to states, the District of Columbia, localities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories. Audits of entities that receive federal funds, including CRF payments, are critical to the federal government’s ability to help safeguard those funds. Auditors that conduct single audits follow guidance in the Single Audit Act’s Compliance Supplement, which the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updates and issues annually in coordination with federal agencies. OMB issued the 2020 Compliance Supplement in August 2020, but the Compliance Supplement specified that OMB is still working with federal agencies to identify the needs for additional guidance for auditing new COVID-19-related programs, including the CRF payments, as well as existing programs with compliance requirement changes. According to OMB, an addendum on COVID-19-related programs, including the CRF payments, will be issued in the fall of 2020. Further delays in issuing this guidance could adversely affect auditors’ ability to issue consistent and timely reports. GAO recommends that OMB, in consultation with Treasury, issue the addendum to the 2020 Compliance Supplement as soon as possible to provide the necessary audit guidance, as many single audit efforts are underway. OMB neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation. Guidance for K-12 Schools State and local school district officials tasked with reassessing their operating status and ensuring their school buildings are safe are generally relying on guidance and recommendations from federal, state, and local public health and education officials. However, portions of CDC’s guidance on reopening K-12 schools are inconsistent, and some federal guidance appears misaligned with CDC’s risk-based approach on school operating status. Based on GAO’s review, Education has updated the information and CDC has begun to do so. GAO recommends that CDC ensure that, as it makes updates to its guidance related to schools’ operating status, the guidance is cogent, clear, and internally consistent. HHS agreed with the recommendation. Tracking Contract Obligations Federal agencies are tracking contract actions and associated obligations in response to COVID-19 using a National Interest Action (NIA) code in the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation. The COVID-19 NIA code was established in March 2020 and was recently extended until March 31, 2021, while a draft of this report recommending that DHS and DOD extend the code beyond September 30, 2020, was with the agencies for comment. GAO has identified inconsistencies in establishing and closing these codes following previous emergencies, and has continued concerns with the criteria that DHS and DOD rely on to determine whether to extend or close a code and whether the code meets long-term needs. GAO recommends that DHS and DOD make updates to the 2019 NIA Code Memorandum of Agreement so as to enhance visibility for federal agencies, the public, and Congress on contract actions and associated obligations related to disaster events, and to ensure the criteria for extending or closing the NIA code reflect government-wide needs for tracking contract actions in longer-term emergencies, such as a pandemic. DHS and DOD did not agree, but GAO maintains implementation of its recommendation is essential. Address Cybersecurity Weaknesses Since March 2020, malicious cyber actors have exploited COVID-19 to target organizations that make up the health care and public health critical infrastructure sector, including government entities, such as HHS. GAO has identified numerous cybersecurity weaknesses at multiple HHS component agencies, including CMS, CDC, and FDA, over the last 6 years, such as weaknesses in key safeguards to limit, prevent, and detect inappropriate access to computer resources. Additionally, GAO’s March 2019 high-risk update identified cybersecurity and safeguarding the systems supporting the nation’s critical infrastructure, such as health care, as high-risk areas. As of July 2020, CMS, FDA, and CDC had made significant progress by implementing 350 (about 81 percent) of the 434 recommendations GAO issued in previous reports to address these weaknesses. Based on the imminent cybersecurity threats, GAO recommends that HHS expedite implementation of GAO’s prior recommendations regarding cybersecurity weaknesses at its component agencies. HHS agreed with the recommendation. As of September 10, 2020, the U.S. had over 6.3 million cumulative reported cases of COVID-19 and over 177,000 reported deaths, according to federal agencies. The country also continues to experience serious economic repercussions and turmoil. Four relief laws, including the CARES Act, were enacted as of September 2020 to provide appropriations to address the public health and economic threats posed by COVID-19. As of July 31, 2020, the federal government had obligated a total of $1.6 trillion and expended $1.5 trillion of the COVID-19 relief funds as reported by federal agencies on The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report bimonthly on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This third report examines key actions the federal government has taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving lessons learned relevant to the nation’s response to pandemics. GAO reviewed data, documents, and guidance from federal agencies about their activities and interviewed federal and state officials, as well as industry representatives. GAO is making 16 new recommendations for agencies that are detailed in this Highlights and in the report. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or
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  • DOD Financial Management: Actions Needed to Address Deficiencies in Controls over Army Active Duty Military Payroll
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundGAO identified deficiencies in the design of key control procedures relied on by the Army and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service-Indianapolis (DFAS-IN) to detect errors in payroll disbursements to active duty Army military personnel. Specifically, GAO found that the Army's procedures for reviewing Unit Commander Finance Reports (UCFR) do not (1) provide for monitoring of required UCFR reviews to better assure detection of payroll errors, (2) require reporting on completed UCFR reviews in all cases, and (3) clearly establish time frames for completing and reporting on UCFR reviews. GAO's analysis of DFAS data on military pay debts and Army investigations of potential fraud completed over the past 2 years identified numerous instances of the effect of errors or irregularities in Army active duty payroll disbursements that went undetected for lengthy periods of time, including some that were not detected for up to 2 years or until the soldier left the Army. For example:A soldier who separated from the Army in 2009 continued to receive active duty pay totaling about $185,000 until 2011.A soldier who was absent without leave from January 2010 to September 2011 received military pay of $33,268 to which she was not entitled.A soldier under investigation for possible fraud allegedly received over $34,000 in paratrooper and language proficiency pay but did not have a documented record of jumps performed or up-to-date proficiency certifications.GAO's analysis determined that the Army could reduce its risk of lengthy delays in detecting and correcting pay errors with more stringent UCFR monitoring and reporting requirements.GAO also found that DFAS and the Army have procedures and metrics in place that focus on the timeliness of manual processing and payroll adjustments for error corrections. However, they do not have procedures and metrics to enable them to gather data on active duty pay errors that were related to causes other than timeliness, such as over- and underpayments, data entry errors, and unauthorized payments. Further, the design of existing Defense Joint Military Pay System-Active Component and DFAS-IN Case Management System procedures for transaction processing and error correction did not provide for monitoring to capture data on all types of pay errors and their causes that would be useful in identifying the extent to which there are any additional systemic payroll control weaknesses. For example, an Army National Guard colonel deployed on active duty to Afghanistan reported that he experienced financial hardship when his military pay was stopped for 1-1/2 months. The absence of data on the extent and causes of all types of Army active duty military payroll errors impairs the Army's ability to identify and address any adverse trends that may indicate the existence of other systemic control weaknesses. Overall, the control deficiencies that GAO identified increase the risk that the nearly $47 billion in reported fiscal year 2011 Army active duty military payroll includes Army servicemembers who received pay to which they were not entitled and others who did not receive the full pay they were due. Further, to the extent that errors in Army active duty pay are not identified and addressed in a timely manner, they can have a negative effect on soldier welfare and, ultimately, could erode soldiers' focus on their Army mission.Why GAO Did This StudyIn March 2012, GAO reported on challenges that DOD and the Army face in achieving audit readiness with respect to the over $45 billion in reported fiscal year 2010 Army active duty military payroll disbursements. In performing that work, GAO identified indications of possible weaknesses in selected processes, systems, and controls relied on to reasonably assure the validity and accuracy of reported Army active duty military payroll that were beyond the scope of that audit. GAO subsequently completed work on those issues and is presenting the results in this report. GAO (1) assessed the design of key controls for payroll accuracy and (2) determined the extent to which the Army and DFAS-IN have monitoring controls to identify and address any systemic weaknesses. GAO compared selected Army and DFAS-IN processes, systems, and controls for assuring payroll accuracy to applicable internal control standards and to applicable provisions of law, regulations, and policies and procedures. GAO also interviewed officials and examined related data and information.
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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO reviewed reported expenditures of federal funds among 39 Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) affiliates from fiscal years 2016 through 2018 and found that they expended approximately $271 million in federal funds during that time frame. The majority—about $256 million (or 94 percent)—were expenditures of funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that were awarded through grant programs or cooperative agreements. Most of these expenditures were from funding PPFA affiliates received through grants awarded by the Office of Population Affairs to provide family planning services. Why GAO Did This Study In order to achieve their programmatic goals, federal agencies provide funding to various organizations that, in turn, use those funds to implement programs and activities aligned with those goals. For example, HHS may award funding through grants or cooperative agreements to PPFA affiliates, who then expend those funds to provide health-related services to patients. GAO was asked to provide information on federal funding to PPFA affiliates. This report describes certain PPFA affiliates' reported expenditures of federal funds from grants and cooperative agreements during fiscal years 2016 through 2018. GAO reviewed expenditure data contained in audit reports submitted by 39 PPFA affiliates that were required to submit a single audit report to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse within at least one of the years covered by GAO's review. For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-7114 or
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