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Other Information

This Section details information regarding topics including audit and reporting requirements, mandatory transparency, accountability, and oversight measures, and consequences associated with the unauthorized use of BEAD Program funds.

A. Transparency

The Infrastructure Act contains robust reporting requirements for Eligible Entities and subgrantees, and requires NTIA, the Commission, and other agencies to coordinate to make information regarding federal broadband funding, low-cost plans, and other aspects of the BEAD Program readily available to and understandable by the public. NTIA will fulfill its obligations to the fullest extent possible. Recipients of U.S. Department of Commerce and NTIA grants also should be cognizant of the access to records requirements set forth at 2 C.F.R. § 200.337.

B. Protected and Proprietary Information

Eligible Entities and subgrantees acknowledge and understand that information and data contained in applications for financial assistance, as well as information and data contained in financial, performance, and other reports submitted by either entity, may be used by the Department of Commerce in conducting reviews and evaluations of its financial assistance programs and for statistical purposes. For this purpose, information and data may be accessed, reviewed, and evaluated by Department of Commerce employees, other federal employees, federal agents and contractors, and/or by non-federal personnel, all of whom enter into appropriate confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements covering the use of such information. As may be provided in the terms and conditions of a specific financial assistance award, Eligible Entities and subgrantees are expected to support Program reviews and evaluations by submitting required financial and performance information and data in an accurate and timely manner, and

by cooperation with the Department of Commerce and external program evaluators. In accordance with 2 C.F.R. § 200.303(e), Eligible Entities and subgrantees are reminded that they must take reasonable measures to safeguard protected personally identifiable information and other confidential or sensitive personal or business information created or obtained in connection with a Department of Commerce financial assistance award.

NTIA will protect confidential and proprietary information from public disclosure consistent with applicable law, including the Trade Secrets Act, as amended (18 U.S.C. 1905) and the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (18 U.S.C. 1831 et seq.). In the event that a submission contains information or data deemed to be confidential commercial information or that otherwise should not be publicly disclosed, that information should be identified, bracketed, and marked as Privileged, Confidential, Commercial or Financial Information. Based on these markings, the confidentiality of the contents of those pages will be reviewed for protection consistent with applicable law.

Additionally, some of the information submitted in the course of applying for funding under this Program, or provided in the course of its grant management activities, may be considered law enforcement sensitive or otherwise important to national security interests. This may include threat, risk, and needs assessment information, and discussions of demographics, transportation, public works, and industrial and public health infrastructures. In the event that a submission contains such information or data, that information should be identified, bracketed, and marked appropriately. Based on these markings, the confidentiality of the contents of those pages will be reviewed for protection consistent with applicable law. The Eligible Entity and subgrantee should be familiar with the regulations governing Protected Critical Infrastructure Information (6 C.F.R. Part 29) and Sensitive Security Information (49 C.F.R. Part 1520), as these designations may provide additional protection to certain classes of homeland security information.

In addition to the public disclosure requirements of this program, the Eligible Entity is encouraged to consult its own laws and regulations regarding the release of information, which should be considered when reporting sensitive matters in the grant application. The Eligible Entity may consult with NTIA regarding concerns or questions about the release of information or how omitting sensitive information could impact NTIA’s assessment of the Eligible Entity’s application.

C. Funding Availability and Limitation of Liability

Funding for the Program is contingent upon the continued availability of appropriations. Publication of this NOFO does not oblige NTIA, NIST or the Department of Commerce to award any specific project or other eligible activity or to obligate any available funds. NTIA will recommend for funding only projects and other eligible activities that are deemed likely to achieve the BEAD Program goals and for which funds are available.

D. Third Party Beneficiaries

The BEAD Program is not intended to and does not create any rights enforceable by third party beneficiaries.

E. Waiver Authority

It is the general intent of NTIA not to waive any of the provisions set forth in this NOFO. However, at the discretion of the Assistant Secretary, NTIA, upon its own initiative or when requested, may waive the provisions in this NOFO. Waivers may only be granted for requirements that are discretionary and not mandated by statute or other applicable law. Any request for a waiver must set forth the circumstances for the request.

F. Paperwork Reduction Act and Administrative Procedures Act

Section 60102(o) specifically exempts the BEAD Program from the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. § 3506) and the Administrative Procedures Act.

G. Transparency, Accountability, And Oversight Required 

1. Generally

NTIA, Eligible Entities, and subgrantees each have a critical role to play in ensuring that the BEAD Program is implemented in a manner that ensures transparency, accountability, and oversight sufficient to, among other things:

  1. Minimize the opportunity for waste, fraud, and abuse;
  2. Ensure that recipients of grants under the Program use grant funds to further the overall purpose of the Program in compliance with the requirements of the Infrastructure Act, this NOFO, 2 C.F.R. Part 200, the terms and conditions of the award, and other applicable law; and
  3. Allow the public to understand and monitor grants and subgrants awarded under the Program.

To that end, NTIA and Eligible Entities shall:

  1. Conduct such audits of grantees and subgrantees as are necessary and appropriate, including audit requirements described in Section VII.G. Eligible Entities shall report the full results of any audits they conduct to the appropriate Federal Program Officer.
  2. Develop monitoring plans, subject to the approval of the Assistant Secretary, which may include site visits or desk reviews, technical assistance, and random sampling of compliance requirements.
  3. Impose specific conditions on grant awards designed to mitigate the risk of nonperformance where appropriate.

Each Eligible Entity and/or subgrantee shall, as appropriate:

  1. Comply with the reporting requirements set forth in Section I.E of this NOFO.
  2. Comply with the obligations set forth in 2 C.F.R. Part 200 and the Department of Commerce Financial Assistance Standard Terms and Conditions.
  3. Establish and widely publicize telephone numbers and email addresses for the Eligible Entity’s Office of Inspector General (or comparable entity) or subgrantees’ internal ethics office (or comparable entity) for the purpose of reporting waste, fraud or abuse in the Program. Eligible Entities and subgrantees shall produce copies of materials used for such purpose upon request of the Federal Program Officer.

2. U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General

The U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General (OIG) seeks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department’s programs, including deterring and detecting fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. The OIG accomplishes this mission primarily through investigations, audits, and inspections of Department activities, including grants, cooperative agreements, loans, and contracts.

a. Disclosures

Recipients of financial assistance originating from the U.S. Department of Commerce, including NTIA, shall timely disclose, in writing, to the OIG and awarding agency, whenever, in connection with the award, performance, or closeout of this grant or sub-award thereunder, the recipient has credible evidence that a principal, employee, agent, or sub-recipient has committed:

  1. A violation of federal criminal law involving fraud, conflict of interest, bribery, or gratuity violations found in Title 18 of the United States Code; or
  2. A violation of the civil False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733).

b. Reporting

The OIG maintains a hotline to receive allegations of fraud, waste, or abuse. To report such allegations, please visit https://www.oig.doc.gov/Pages/Hotline.aspx. Upon request, the OIG will take appropriate measures to protect the identity of any individual who reports misconduct, as authorized by the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended. Reports to the OIG may also be made anonymously.

3. Whistleblower Protection

Recipients, sub-recipients, and employees working on this grant award will be subject to the whistleblower rights and remedies established under 41 U.S.C. § 4712.

An employee of a recipient or sub-recipient may not be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as a reprisal for disclosing information that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of: gross mismanagement of a federal contract or award; a gross waste of federal funds; an abuse of authority (i.e., an arbitrary and capricious exercise of authority that is inconsistent with the mission of NTIA or the U.S. Department of Commerce or the successful

performance of a contract or grant awarded by NTIA or the Department) relating to a federal contract or award; a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or a violation of a law, rule, or regulation related to a federal contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant.

The recipient or sub-recipient shall inform its employees and contractors, in writing, in the predominant language of the workforce or organization, of employee whistleblower rights and protections under 41 U.S.C. § 4712, as described above and at https://www.oig.doc.gov/Pages/Whistleblower-Protection-Program.aspx.

4. Enforcement

NTIA shall take enforcement action against Eligible Entities and, if necessary, subgrantees, and Eligible Entities shall take enforcement action against subgrantees, as necessary and appropriate:

  1. A subgrantee that fails to comply with any requirement under Section 60102 of the Infrastructure Act or this NOFO shall be required to return up to the entire amount of the subgrant to the Eligible Entity, at the discretion of the Eligible Entity or the Assistant Secretary.
  2. If a subgrantee fails to comply with the low-cost broadband service option requirement set out in Section 60102(h)(4)(B) of the Infrastructure Act, the Assistant Secretary may take corrective action, including recoupment of funds from the subgrantee.
  3. NTIA and Eligible Entities may also enforce applicable rules and laws by imposing penalties for nonperformance, failure to meet statutory obligations, or wasteful, fraudulent, or abusive expenditure of grant funds. Such penalties include, but are not limited to, imposition of additional award conditions, payment suspension, award suspension, grant termination, de-obligation/clawback of funds, and debarment of organizations and/or personnel.

H. Unauthorized Use of Funds.

To the extent that the Assistant Secretary or the Inspector General of the Commerce Department determines that an Eligible Entity or subgrantee has expended grant funds received under the BEAD Program in violation of the requirements set forth in Section 60102 of the Infrastructure Act, 2 C.F.R. Part 200, the terms and conditions of the award, or other applicable law, the Assistant Secretary shall, if appropriate, recover the amount of funds that were so expended.