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The future of government grant, incentive and loan program delivery: A Collaborative Model for Operational Excellence

July 05, 2021

The future of government grant, incentive and loan program delivery: A Collaborative Model for Operational Excellence

Synopsis
11 Minute Read

A new, collaborative model to manage and administer government grant, incentive and loan (GIL) programs through third parties is setting the stage for increased efficiencies and transparency. Our whitepaper examines how it works and best practice components.

Partner, Consulting

Contents

 


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Introduction

Federal and provincial grant, incentive and loan (GIL) programs provided to businesses and communities across Canada are serving as critical components of the nation’s economic recovery and renewal for Canada’s emerging post-pandemic economy.

These programs provide targeted funding for a number of recovery measures. These include capital investment, business development, market realignment, jobs, training, research and development, technology transformation - and other means to ramp up economic activity and support broader government objectives (e.g. greenhouse gas emission reductions).

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a pivot point for the scale and pace at which GIL programs must be administered. Given the pandemic-induced urgency for rapid results, governments must now design, deploy, administer, and evaluate these complex programs within condensed timelines to help recipients benefit from urgently needed support. At the same time, governments are also dealing with significant resource constraints.

In response to these unprecedented circumstances, a collaborative model featuring third-party management and administration of GIL program delivery has emerged. And it offers the potential to serve as a blueprint for operational excellence going forward.

This white paper explains how this model works and the key components representing best practice. Within this paper, what is typically referred to as the “contractor” or “service provider” will also be known as the GIL Program Partner, which can be involved in the GIL program in a variety of ways.

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Scope for grant, incentive and loan programs continues to expand

Traditionally, governments and arms-length organizations with government mandates and / or funding, delivered GIL programs to support long-term economic development. These priorities have now expanded to include a broader range of purposes that address both long-term and short-term needs: helping workers and businesses survive the pandemic, increasing the resiliency of our supply chains and supporting future economic growth.

With a track record of successes, GIL programs are increasingly targeted to assist specific industries, sectors and regions. Federal, provincial and territorial governments provide programs to accelerate a wide range of areas, such as manufacturing, agriculture and agri-food, infrastructure, clean energy, and regional economic development.

The life cycle of a grant, incentive or loan program can last weeks, months or years, according to its mandate. Most programs generally include a series of phases encompassing design, administration, and evaluation.

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Program delivery evolving from in-house to collaborative

The pandemic highlighted the importance of fast and efficient delivery of services and programs. Governments are now aiming for stronger customer-focused responsiveness – a priority that can be achieved through collaboratively managed GIL programs.

Collaborative models

In which a government shares responsibility for delivering a GIL program with a qualified partner– are flexible. All or portions of a program can be outsourced, according to the government’s preferences.

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Comprehensive delivery

  • Government contracts professional / administrative delivery
  • GIL Program Partner takes on risk and burden of delivery
  • GIL Program Partner guarantees ouputs and / or outcomes

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Hybrid Delivery

  • Government and GIL Program Partner divide functions
  • Government and GIL Program Partner share risk and burden of delivery

 

Comprehensive approach

This involves fully outsourcing the planning, management, delivery and evaluation of a GIL program to a GIL program partner. This partner assumes all of the tasks, and the risks, of program delivery.

Hybrid Approach

Here, the program provider and the GIL program partner divide responsibilities for designing, administering and evaluating a program. Both parties share the responsibilities, resources, risks and accountability for program delivery.

There are numerous proven advantages to outsourcing GIL program delivery.

Speed and efficiency

It used to take months for a government department to set up a comprehensive grant program. By leveraging the strengths of a trusted consultant, even in an environment characterized by urgent priorities and constrained resources, crucial GIL programs can be up and running within weeks.

Resource augmentation 

Resource requirements for GIL programs can be extensive. The expertise needed can range from economic modelling, to program development, process mapping, project management, research, stakeholder engagement, data collection and analysis, finance and accounting, internal controls, technology solutions, risk management, performance measurement, and program evaluation.

Since government hiring processes can be lengthy and these entities must operate within ever-leaner budget frameworks, resourcing temporary programs with full-time employees can be a challenge. As well, the hiring process takes longer within government, and approvals for head count are increasingly scrutinized. Partnering enables a program provider to immediately access another network of qualified specialists that enables immediate alignment of capabilities with specific program requirements. These specialists work efficiently and cost-effectively on an as-needed basis, which generates high value at lower cost, and enables government to focus more productively on core activities.

Collaborating with consultants who have experience and knowledge across multiple industries, markets and regions in Canada can add in-depth program delivery insights and best practices. The outsiders’ perspective of working with and understanding the different needs of diverse program prospects and recipients, enables leveraging learnings from similar program delivery in other jurisdictions.

Innovation

Just as Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan emphasizes partnerships to bring together innovation-focused stakeholders, delivering GIL programs through collaborative government-contractor partnerships can deliver best practices in innovative capabilities and processes.

As governments aim to solve problems with new solutions, and utilize technology to improve outcomes, it is critical to bring new ideas and approaches to the table that drive continual improvements and better outcomes. Leveraging the advanced methodologies, working models, technologies and processes of a well-equipped partner can rapidly amplify a program provider’s innovation capacity.

Powerful global forces, such as technical disruption and new applications of data and digital technologies, are driving rapid change in economies and societies around the world. Seizing this moment of change, and transforming it into new opportunities and competitive advantages for Canada, calls for bold and urgent action. To keep up and thrive in this global innovation race, Canada must build a culture of innovation.

Building a Nation of Innovators, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Risk mitigation

Identifying and proactively managing the risk exposure associated with a GIL program is essential to ensure desired outcomes. A trusted collaborator can help to develop a structured risk management framework that identifies, evaluates and prevents or mitigates risks that have the potential to impact these outcomes.

Working with a qualified partner also provides cost-containment benefits as more of the risks related to delivery are shouldered by the contractor. For example, third-party objectivity can mitigate conflict of interest risk identified when carrying out contracts - who will be funded and who won’t? Who is asking the right questions to ensure money is being given to the right organizations?

An experienced consultant would follow an objective framework around screening applicants and organizations. As well, impartial oversight provided by a GIL program partner reduces the risk of errors and the potential for fraud through stringent internal controls and financial processes. Ultimately, working with a trusted third party with access to enterprise risk services provides an additional level of reassurance and comfort, enhancing a program’s overall return on investment.

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Best practices for a GIL program delivery partnership

With an ever-greater need for speed, flexibility, and efficiency in delivering grants, incentives and loans, collaborative partnerships represent an effective model for operational excellence.

Delivering government GIL programs involves three main components:

  • Design
  • Administration
  • Evaluation

Design

The proper design of a GIL program ensures effective performance, transparent decision-making criteria and efficient systems and resourcing.

Program design involves aligning processes, operating models, resourcing, tools, performance, and risks with defined and measurable outcomes. While design is unique to each program, there are two key best practice elements all incorporate:

Clear purpose

Effective program design begins with a clear purpose. Defining this purpose, as well as the responsibilities of both parties to steward to this purpose, enables program components to be designed for optimal efficiency and positive outcomes.

Guiding principles

Establishing a set of guiding principles helps to support good governance and decision making throughout the development and delivery of a GIL program.

Clear principles enable individuals and teams to quickly, and with greater autonomy, make decisions consistent with the purpose of the program. Principles helpful in providing direction and clarity include:

  • Accountability – To the government, organizational members and stakeholders.
    Participants take ownership for their actions and responsibility to all stakeholders.
  • Transparency – Well-defined, open and clear approaches to evaluating funding applications, making decisions and reporting on results.
    Policies and processes are intended to be easily accessible and understandable.
  • Objectivity – Implementing the program in a manner that is fair, equal and not influenced by factors outside the purpose or scope of the program.
    This facilitates unbiased decision making and actions to ensure fairness for the public good.
  • Simplicity - While focusing on other principles, making the application, evaluation, reporting, etc. as simple as possible while still capturing the information required.

Administration 

Administering a GIL program encompasses process mapping; marketing and outreach; application review and approvals; monitoring, control and reporting; and optimizing performance with digital technologies.

Aiming for rigour and efficiency, an independent partner can reduce or eliminate the need for internal staffing for these tasks, and thereby lower costs. 

Process mapping

Detailing administrative processes is critical for effective program delivery. This requires developing maps that define the work steps, decision points, information flows and outputs of each process required to deliver the program, such as:

  • Application submissions and receipt
  • Application processing, including due diligence and activities for funding applications
  • Notification and contracting
  • Managing payment
  • Project monitoring and assessment
  • Quality assurance and issues management
  • Project completion and closure
  • Final reporting

Defining and describing these processes helps identify where resources are needed and what costs must be incurred and facilitates efficient service delivery. Mapping these processes also helps clarify the decision-making framework.

Marketing and outreach

Integral to every GIL program is promoting awareness and facilitating access and uptake by eligible participants.

A trusted contractor can offer a variety of activity streams, including generating awareness among potential applicants of a program’s objectives and structure, available funding and how to access them. The follow are examples of outreach opportunities:

  • Program website – A simple user-friendly website can help to increase opportunities for access to a GIL program. This serves as an efficient outreach platform by hosting program information and application forms and enabling interested parties to determine their eligibility, to submit required information and documents, and to stay informed regarding the status of an application.
    For the program provider, a well-developed website also minimizes administrative interactions by enabling the organization to monitor program participation, manage applications and payments and gather the data needed to support analysis of program outcomes.
  • Direct marketing – An experienced consultant can help determine the most appropriate marketing activities to communicate the benefits of a program to relevant target audiences. These could include internet marketing, email marketing, conferences, and direct contacts.
  • Help line – To encourage uptake by eligible participants, you can collaborate with an independent, trained team to respond to enquiries from prospective participants by phone or email.

Application intake, evaluation and approval

Good intake processes support desired program outcomes by promoting clarity, efficiency and consistency and promoting higher submission rates and approvals.

Typically, the application, intake, evaluation, and approval process for a GIL program includes the following steps:

  • Provide potential participants with the ability to submit funding applications
  • Receive and assess applications
  • Manage enquiries
  • Screen applications
  • Evaluate submissions
  • Award the grant, incentive or loan
  • Notify applicants
  • Finalize agreements
  • Disburse funds and / or manage loan repayments, as necessary

Program monitoring, control and reporting

Project monitoring and control helps to ensure the program or approved activities are progressing in tandem with the plan.

To determine whether a program is meeting the expectations established in the funding agreement, it is essential to compare findings from the monitoring phase with the original program plan on a regular basis.

The preparation of management and financial reporting on a quarterly basis or as needed, also is critical to facilitate timely program adjustments. These status reports typically detail the following:

  • Measure of progress against current plan
  • Objectives for the next reporting period and key upcoming dates
  • Total funds committed and disbursed
  • Budget report
  • Issues affecting specific timelines
  • Outstanding issues and decisions required
  • A risk register documenting the nature and level of each identified risk and mitigation measures in place

Should timelines or milestones significantly deviate from this plan, GIL Program Partner would undertake an assessment so any necessary corrective action can be taken in a timely manner. 

Optimizing performance

Digital technologies have a key role in the effective delivery of GIL programs. These can serve to facilitate the rapid collection, analysis and sharing of information; strengthen service levels, transparency and reporting; enhance internal resource management; and facilitate timely, informed decision making. 

There are a number of ways to optimize program delivery with technology solutions for a variety of project management requirements. These include:

  • Integration to ensure all project elements are effectively coordinated
  • Project scheduling, workflow, and tracking
  • File storage and archiving
  • Accounting and cost management to identify needed resources and maintain budget control
  • Operational quality control to ensure functional requirements are met
  • Human resource management to effectively deploy project personnel
  • Communications management to ensure effective internal and external information dissemination
  • Risk management to analyze and mitigate potential risks
  • Reporting and analysis on financial outcomes

There is a growing variety of sophisticated and flexible cloud-based grants management systems that enable integration of a wide variety of digital requirements for GIL programs. These systems streamline processes ranging from budget planning to application submissions, administrative reporting, project tracking and regulatory compliance. Government and partner teams can collaborate, review and report on applications while analytics features help to manage the integrity and transparency of the process.

These management systems also improve the applicant experience, enabling prospective participants to find and apply for funding opportunities and view the status of their application through a customizable portal.

Evaluation 

To assess the extent to which program objectives have been met, a trusted collaborator can assess both the overall performance of the program as well as the extent to which it has demonstrated efficiency and economy, without bias.

An assessment by an independent service provider can eliminate potential conflicts of interest. They also equip the government entity with an objective perspective to make informed decisions regarding results or improvements to the program or expenditure management.

  • Evaluation of overall program performance – This determines whether expected outcomes were achieved. This encompasses aligning performance measures with the purpose and expected outcomes of the program, developing reliable data collection and analysis, and producing objective findings and conclusions.
  • Assessment of efficiency and economy – An assessment involves measuring the resources utilized by the program at the operational level, such as those related to administration and customer service, and how those impact outcomes. These evaluations also ensure the program provider has appropriate reporting on results to meet mandated requirements.

A model for excellence for the delivery of grant, incentive, and loan programs

Government GIL programs will serve a crucial role in Canada’s post-pandemic recovery – helping to bring back jobs in hard-hit sectors, supporting business activity and innovation and rebuilding our communities.

By utilizing a collaborative, partnership-based model, governments can provide funds to program participants efficiently and cost-effectively and support rapid economic renewal from coast to coast.

What to look for in a GIL program partner

  • Experience with oversight, administration and reporting of the disbursement of public funds for defined purposes.
  • A track record of administering and delivering successful government grant, funding incentive or loan programs to companies and / or the public.
  • An extensive national and regional network of skilled technical experts and industry specialists available on an as-needed basis.
  • Proven expertise in business process analysis, modeling and design – ensuring all aspects are considered from application to final reporting.
  • Proven ability to develop effective internal controls – as you face growing demands for transparency, you also have a greater need for stringent internal controls to safeguard assets, maximize resources, deliver reliable financial reporting, and ensure you’re complying with applicable laws and regulations. 
  • Ability to produce comprehensive frameworks, robust policies, efficient processes and best practices for thorough reports and audits.
  • Experience developing transparency, accountability, and performance measures.
  • Expertise in implementing leading-edge technology solutions that facilitate effective interactions among systems, processes and people and optimize program delivery.
  • Evaluation experience, including identification and measurement of outcomes and impacts to determine the effectiveness of a program.

Contact

For more information, contact Jen Hayes, Partner, Consulting, at 416.515.5055 or [email protected].

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