“Trust, but verify,” goes an old adage. EERE is applying this advice through the implementation of an external review process to evaluate how well we are carrying out the important role of monitoring the performance of Recovery Act-funded projects. This new Independent Project Review (IPR) process is designed to bring in outside firms to independently analyze and assess the status of EERE’s project monitoring activities. The significance of this process was underscored in the recent testimony of DOE CFO Steve Isakowitz before the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in hearings on DOE’s Recovery Act spending. He pointed to the fact DOE oversight activities are becoming government-wide “best practices.” As one of those new oversight activities, the IPR process recognizes that a monitoring program for such an array of technically and financially diverse projects benefits from a set of checks and balances on everyone involved, including those performing the monitoring work.
Under the new IPR Process, outside reviewers will examine documents such as financial records and performance reports and will interview Project Officers and management staff. These assessments not only will ensure that proper controls are in place, but also will help to identify noteworthy practices that could be implemented elsewhere to promote consistency across projects. They can thus improve technical and managerial efficiency and effectiveness.
While the IPR process is still in its infancy, preliminary findings from a pilot phase study have revealed both a set of best practices and areas for improvement. In particular, resources such as necessary information and documentation are typically available, but differences exist in how Project Officers perform their monitoring duties across EERE field sites. These differences seem to be based both on the technical areas emphasized by the individual office and site-specific protocols. This ongoing process should enable DOE Project Officers and Program Managers to incorporate project monitoring improvements and reinforce best practices already in use.
Learn More! DOE CFO Steve Isakowitz's March 17, 2011 testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations can be found here on the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Website.