There is a lot of money in the business of government grants, and with this kind of money comes a huge amount of complexity in terms of process and accountability. In the United States alone, between three and five hundred billion dollars is granted at the federal level every year, and for those managing grant applications, red is the only colour of tape that they know about. FreeBalance Inc. in Ottawa has developed an application designed to simplify the lives of such people.
FreeBalance eGrants is a Web-based application designed to manage the full life cycle of government granting programs, including the announcement of the program, the completion and acceptance of applications, the award of funds and the post-award analysis of projects and reporting.
The application’s Web-based front end enables online applications, and has a workflow component to automate the assessment and award process and eliminate paper. It also has an interface to the financial system to record budget commitments, obligate funds and schedule milestone payments as well as a post-award analysis and monitoring tool.
Chris Iles, vice-president of e-government operations at Free Balance in Ottawa, explained the need for an application to streamline the granting process.
“Grants by nature are complex,” Iles explained. “eGrants provides functionality around the granting process, which is a core part of the process of government. Programs are developed to respond to legislation, and there are issues among public service. There are regulatory requirements and accountability, and the process has to be well documented to make sure that good decisions are being made. We provide more than an automated process, but an exchange of information in a real time context.”
FreeBalance has recently integrated Texar Corp.’s s-Peer technology into the eGrants application in order to ensure that all shared resources are protected by a policy-based access control list. Users can explicitly designate who is permitted to view and download the resources being shared.
According to Michael Vlugt, Texar’s Ottawa-based director of business development for peer to peer, this focus on security is integral, particularly in today’s climate.
“When we talk about policy authorization, we equate it to a home,” Vlugt said. “You can invite a number of people to a party in your home. As soon as they go through the front door – or firewall, if we’re talking about the application – they can go anywhere in your home. They can look in your drawers, and if you’ve got a safe with a lock on it, they automatically know your combination. With our product, we determine where they can go in your home. You can say that they can only go into the dining room or sit at the kitchen table or stand in the foyer. That’s what we mean when we say that we focus on the fine granular level.”
Current Canadian customers taking advantage of FreeBalance’s technology include the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the National Parole Board, the National Archives, the Public Service Commission of Canada and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
According to Marcel Lachance, senior manager responsible for e-government solutions at Deloitte Consulting in Ottawa, applications such as eGrants are transforming the way that the government is doing business.
“This is extremely timely,” Lachance said. “As governments move more towards self service and service delivery, we’ll see a transformation in the way that they provide services, including a streamlining of processes with more timely and more accurate reporting. By tracking status online, part of the burden is taken off the public sector.”
The product is scalable and is platform independent.
FreeBalance can be reached at www.freebalance.com. Texar can be reached at www.texar.com.