EPA provides grant funding to states and tribes to collect, analyze, and use environmental information under many environmental statutes (i.e., Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act). Grantees must develop and receive EPA approval of a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) prior to receiving funds. QAPPs are technical documents, developed by the grantee and approved by EPA, that ensure data activities are performed correctly and that document data quality procedures and key personnel. States, tribes, and EPA are working to make the QAPP process more consistent, timely, and transparent. Through the E-Enterprise model, these partners are using shared governance to improve the process and optimize technology support.
Under the direction of the E-Enterprise Leadership Council, a group of state, tribal, and EPA professionals conducted a Lean-Kaizen event to analyze QAPP business processes across the ten EPA regions. The event yielded the following goals:
- Improve communications between grantees and EPA Quality Assurance (QA) personnel.
- Pursue consistency in grant terms and conditions (T&Cs) across all EPA regional offices.
- Improve QAPP training to better meet the needs of state and tribal grantees.
- Explore how to track, report, and improve the timeliness of QAPP processes.
- Analyze the extent to which information technology solutions could facilitate QAPP processes.
- Analyze how to develop consistency in review of documents across EPA regions.
Throughout FY 2019-2020, small workgroups consisting of state, tribal, and EPA representatives are working to:
- Improve Communications: Prepared memorandum from EPA’s Office of Grants and Debarment to EPA Grant Project Officers and Regional QA Managers (QAMs) encouraging direct communications between QA staff and grantees. (Completed 7/9/2019). Collected best practices and developed reference documents needed to use during scoping meeting (Completed 8/2/2019).
- Standardize Grant Terms and Conditions: Inventory current National level and programmatic terms and conditions and work with EPA’s Office of Grants and Debarment to develop standardized QA requirements across programs and regions (In Progress).
- Assess and provide QAPP Training: Inventory existing QAPP training (Completed 8/19/2019) survey state and tribal training needs (Target date 11/15/2019) and conduct a gap analysis to change future training delivery and scope (1st QTR FY 2020). OMS plans to host a QAPP training workshop for EPA, states and tribes in conjunction with EE2020, May 12-14, 2020.
- Collect Data and Metrics: Collect data and track workflow to better understand the timing and need for rework in the QAPP review-approval process (Completed 8/16/2019). Through the EPA Lean Management System, the team will set a consistent nationwide target to review and approve QAPPs to provide consistency across the ten EPA regions and certainty for the grantees (Completed 9/26/2019).
- Address Consistency in Review: Explore options to create a consistent agency-wide review model that would reduce variation across and within EPA when reviewing or revising grantees’ QAPPs (2nd QTR FY 2020).