Ensuring project success requires effective monitoring of what’s actually happening “on the ground.” While a Technical Project Officer (TPO) can evaluate a great deal of important project information from his or her home office, known as “desktop monitoring,” this cannot replace the increased level of communication and goodwill built from an onsite visit with the recipient.

TPOs utilize site visits as an opportunity for face-to-face meetings to foster an improved relationship with the Recipient, review new and/or complicated grant requirements, and discuss progress. TPOs find that by explaining in person certain requirements or modifications, such as Davis-Bacon or Buy American, and how these conditions personally affect the Recipient, it greatly reduces misunderstandings upfront before costly and time-consuming non-compliance issues arise. 

For example, by ensuring the grantee includes the correct Buy American requirements in their Request for Proposals (RFP) and contracts, the Recipient has an available recourse in case the contractor installs non-compliant products. The same applies to Davis-Bacon requirements. If appropriate contract language is developed and payroll collection and review are understood by all parties, non-compliance occurrences will be greatly reduced and easier to resolve if they do occur.

TPOs have found that it is optimal to conduct onsite visits early in term of the award and to coincide with different stage-gates in a Recipient’s project schedule. As the TPOs conduct these onsite visits, they are able to gain a greater understanding of the Recipient’s needs and challenges and of the project as a whole. This complements the desktop monitoring system and enables the TPO to more effectively monitor the project in the future.

For an example of how TPOs are working to improve the onsite monitoring experience visit check out our previous post Optimizing the TPO Onsite Visit Experience.