Viewpoint: ISO standards can help meet ARRA requirements
As he signed the historic $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), President Obama assured Americans that it “is a plan that will be implemented with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability.” One year later, it has become quite apparent that was not an understatement.
In December, the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a memorandum (M-10-08) that directs federal agencies to “identify and remediate” instances where recipients of ARRA funds demonstrate “systemic or chronic reporting problems” and warns ARRA fund recipients that “such findings of a federal agency can result in termination of federal funding.” OMB has made it quite clear ARRA is to be implemented quickly and accurately.
Unfortunately, most city and county governments are feeling the pain of the economic recession as decreases in revenue have created large budget shortfalls. Furloughs, layoffs and hiring freezes abound in most local government agencies even as the pressure to implement ARRA mounts. Given the short time tables and onerous reporting requirements of ARRA, how can understaffed local governments ensure the accountability and reporting requirements of ARRA are achieved?
An answer may be found in the newly updated ISO 9001:2008 standard (Quality Management Systems — Requirements). The ISO 9001:2008 standard contains generic requirements for the establishment of a quality management system in any organization. Agencies that wish to provide an increased level of accountability for their stakeholders can become certified by an accredited third party organization, though certification is not necessary to obtain the benefits of the ISO 9001:2008 standard.
When applied to an ARRA program or project, the ISO 9001:2008 standard provides a proven method for ensuring the minimum requirements are in place to achieve quality in ARRA implementation and reporting. The following points summarize a few of the significant benefits of the ISO 9001:2008 standard.
By identifying process interfaces and establishing measurement systems to support the implementation of the ISO 9001:2008 standard requirements, organizations will improve their ability to identify potential quality issues before they become serious problems.
The documentation requirements of the ISO 9001:2008 standard will facilitate a more effective audit experience by providing a transparent structure made possible by identifying process interfaces, facilitating effective documentation and ensuring proper control of records.
Implementation of corrective action
The ISO 9001:2008 standard provides requirements for an effective corrective action process, which will ensure reporting errors and audit findings are properly investigated to determine root causes and effective action is implemented to ensure the problems do not recur. This process will be essential when legions of auditors descend upon an organization to ensure ARRA funds are being properly administered.
1512 reporting data quality assurance
Implementation of the verification and validation requirements of the ISO 9001:2008 standard ensures that quality assurance processes are effective and adequate to establish a high level of data quality for 1512 reporting.
The ISO 9001:2008 standard provides a powerful solution for organizations that are struggling to ensure the accountability requirements of ARRA are achieved. A copy of the ISO 9001:2008 standard is available from organizations such as the American Society for Quality, www.asq.org.
- Learn more about the benefits of ISO 9001 for city and county government from the author during a free webinar.
John Baranzelli is ISO Quality Assurance Officer for the Illinois Department of Transportation and the author of “Making Government Great Again: Mapping the Road to Success with ISO 9001:2008.” A portion of proceeds from the book benefit the Make a Wish Foundation.