Award Management Tips for DRAs

ORSP personnel are UM’s #1 resource for assistance with awards.  PIs, departmental research administrators (DRAs) and support staff, Business Services, Human Resources, and ORSP all collaborate to manage awards successfully.

Grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, and awards of other external funding mechanisms are permanently restricted funds, and subject to complex rules.  UM needs to follow restrictions and be consistent with university policies & procedures, sponsor terms & conditions, and federal cost principles

Use the ORSP Departmental Pre/Post Award Assignments list to find the department’s research organization (ORG) number for proposal (e-Prop) purposes and determine who in ORSP is assigned to a department.  Your departmentally-assigned Sponsored Programs Specialist (SPS) can assist with all aspects of proposal and award management, including  access to sponsor-specific electronic platforms. The ORSP A to Z Index contains a wealth of information and the ORSP listservs offer discussion of best practices and other items of interest.  Additionally, while PI Training is mandatory for PIs, DRAs are welcome to participate.  

Award Notice

  • Varies from sponsor to sponsor
    • Can be a check, letter, MOU, grant, cooperative agreement, contract, purchase order, prize
    • Can be for research, instruction, other sponsored activities
  • Contains the following
    • award number
    • amount of award
    • length of award
    • terms & conditions, such as how to rebudget, when to go to sponsor for prior approval, etc.
    • cost sharing
    • budget
      • make sure this is accurate
      • work with ORSP and the PI to correct any errors
    • program officer – for technical/programmatic issues
    • grants officer – for changes/financial issues

Budget Status Report (BuStR)

Sent from ORSP and provides the following information that has been entered into Banner:

  • Index code
  • Grant number
  • Post-award sponsored programs specialist (SPS)
  • Sponsoring agency
  • Program/Fund titles
  • Sponsor reference number (award number)
  • Principal Investigator (PI) or PIs
  • Department/School
  • Performance period
  • Comments

If BuStR is inaccurate, notifiy your post-award SPS so that corrections can be made.  

PI should make sure appropriate departmental staff receive copies of the BuStR, as well as copies of the award notice.

Index Codes

  • Unique to sponsored programs – M followed by 5 numbers
  • Some awards may require more than one index code for the following reasons:

    • Sponsor may not allow automatic carry forward of unexpended balances in a multi-year award, so each year needs to be tracked separately.
    • Sponsor may require an administrative index (with a spending limitation) and a program or participant support index (with a spending limitation, and usually without indirect costs).
    • Sponsor may require that each budget period be billed separately instead of cumulatively in a multi-year award.
    • There may be cost match or program income index codes associated with the project.
  • ORSP groups numbers by funding agency and differentiate between federal and non-federal
  • Budgets are entered at the 6__99 account code level, with the exception of 62899 (“other” categories are typically entered in detail)
  • Food costs are not normally allowed in sponsored programs, so the purpose needs to be documented out in the proposal, providing as much detail as possible

Responsibilities

  • PI is ultimately responsible, and must spend funds according to the budget.  Certainly call ORSP to check the appropriateness of an expense, but you can also look at agency rules and regulations and links to federal regulations per the award document
  • PI is responsible for technical/progress reports
  • ORSP is responsible for financial reports, so if the technical report has a financial component, contact ORSP to provide or verify the financial figures before the PI sends the technical report to the sponsor
  • ORSP prepares all bills to the funding agency on a cost reimbursement basis

Subawards

  • Read the guidlines on Subrecipient Agreements 
  • Subrecipients are identified in the proposal
  • Negotiated by ORSP and prepared by ORSP’s subaward manager
  • PI needs to contact ORSP to ensure that subawards are drafted
  • Typically issued to another institution for a co-investigator
  • Subawards include a scope of work, budget, and budget narrative
  • Subawards are legally binding documents and need to be specific, so that any disputes that may arise can be easier to resolve
  • Written sponsor approval is required to add a subaward not identified and approved in the proposal
  • Subaward invoices come to ORSP for review. ORSP then obtains PI approval and pays the subaward invoices.
    • PI needs to certify that the work has been done before the invoices are paid
    • PI can ask ORSP for assistance—ORSP has leverage, but it is too late if the project is ending and all invoices have been paid, but deliverables have not been met
    • Subawards can be extended by ORSP if the award is extended, but the PI initiates this

Purchasing & Payment for Goods and Services

Expenses are processed by the department according to UM policies and procedures, with the exception of subaward payments and participant support cost or human subjects payments, both of which are processed by ORSP. See Disbursement Guidelines for Payments to Students and/or Participants.

  • Hiring follows UM Human Resource Services policies and procedures.  If individuals are non-resident aliens, there are Immigration & Naturalization Services (INS) and IRS limitations and individuals must be on the correct visa.  Contact HRS for assistance.
  • Contracted Services - Procure 2 Pay Quick Reference Tools
    • One-time payment for visitors, etc.
    • Can process up to $5,000, but anything over $5,000 has additional steps
    • Never pay out of pocket for services rendered, since this must be documented as income
  • Purchasing - see Procure 2 Pay Quick Reference Tools
  • Travel - see UM Travel Guidelines & Procedures and ORSP Travel Guidlines.  Note:  Travel must follow state per diem, not federal, unless otherwise specified in the award terms and conditions.  If so, discuss with your post-award SPS.  
  • Entertainment
    • Cannot be charged to an award 
    • Can sometimes charge a business meeting with catering, depending on the award terms & conditions, but alcohol is unallowable

Charge any expenses that will be reimbursed to a non-grant account where they can be abated.  Revenue cannot be put into a grant account.

Contact ORSP before problematical purchases are made or questionable procedures followed.

Research Graduate Assistant Contracts

  • Salary needs to be paid from the grant(s) on which the student is working
  • Tuition needs to be paid in the same proportion from the grant(s) on which the student is working (i.e., if working 25/75% on two grants for salary, tuition should be 25/75% from the same grants)
    • Some agencies don’t allow tuition costs, so be sure to check the terms & conditions of your award to determine if tuition is an allowable expense. This is not black & white, and varies from agency to agency. Sometimes it even varies between the programs in one agency. So, every award needs to be looked at individually to see if tuition is allowable.
    • If tuition is not allowable, then the student’s tuition needs to be charged to a non-grant account.

Monitoring Expenditures

It is crucial that departmental personnel review award expenditures at least quarterly, and preferably monthly. Each expenditure should have backup documentation (i.e., receipt or electronic documentation). An unreceipted expense should not be charged to an award, because it would be disallowed upon audit.

For an expenditure to be allowable, the following criteria need to be met: 

  • Reasonable: Project costs are considered reasonable if the nature and amount of the goods or services acquired or applied reflect a prudent person's decision under similar circumstances to incur such costs.
  • Allocable: The cost must directly benefit the award being charged. If the cost directly benefits more than one award, it must be split, if the proportion of benefit can be easily documented. If not, then the cost should be charged to a non-grant account such as SPABA.
  • Consistently treated: Simply put, award sponsors should not be charged more for project activities than the university would charge for the same activities in non-sponsored programs (state, designated, auxiliary accounts, etc.). See also Cost Determination Guidelines.
  • In conformance: The cost must be in compliance with federal, state, university, and sponsor regulations, as well as the terms & conditions of the award. The cost must also be within the type and dollar amount limitations specifically defined in the award budget. Generally, the most restrictive regulation applies.

Departmental review can catch missing expenditures that may have been inadvertently charged to a different grant due to miscommunication or typographical error. Reviews can also find expenditures that were erroneously charged to an award by another department due to a typographical error. See also Cost Transfer

Useful tools for monitoring awards include Banner, UMDW, and InfoGriz.

ORSP does a high level review of expenditures and catches unusual or obviously erroneous expenditures that would be noticed by an auditor. However, the University of Montana relies on departmental staff and PIs to monitor grant expenditures in detail. See also audit information in Closeout.

Using Banner

Banner Grants Query Training is offered monthly.  If prompted to save when using Banner, just say no (or award set up in Banner may be compromised)

  • FRIGITD – inception to date
    • Dates default to effective date (typically the month before the grant start date) and to the current date, but a specific date range can be manually entered
    • After completing the header and paging down to the next block, true totals display only after scrolling down to the last account code entry
    • Can chose Grant Detail Information from the Options menu to see each expense
    • Can chose Query Document from the Options menu when looking at an expense
    • Account Summary defaults to All Levels, but can chose Level 2 Acct Types from the drop down box to see Chart of Accounts expenses (i.e., Salary, Benefits, Supplies, Communications, Travel, Rent, Utilities, Repair, Tuition, Other, etc.) for a quick snapshot of how expenses are tracking within the award budget
  • JGIBDST – by fiscal year (awards often cross fiscal years)
    • Uncheck Include Revenue Accounts in the header before going to the next block so that correct totals will display after scrolling down to the last account code entry
    • Can use FRIGITD or JGIBDST to verify current budget balance
    • Choosing Transaction Detail Information from the Options menu shows expenditures for the selected fiscal year
  • FRIORGH – shows all awards by department
    • Status indicators are A=active, I=inactive, P=pending (set up, but award not received)
    • Can query on active grants only (hit F7, enter A under status, hit F8)
    • Options include FRAGRNT for more information
  • FRIPSTG – shows all awards by PI (or other personnel)
    • Enter person’s 790 number, or search with the drop down box
    • Options include FRAGRNT for more information
  • FRAGRNT – shows more information, including the following tabs:
    • Main: Responsible organization, title, start date, end date, proposal number, total budget, CFDA number, Sponsor award number, etc.
    • Grant Agency
    • Cost Code (F&A or indirect cost rate)
    • Personnel
    • Billing
    • User Defined Data

Using UMDW

  • UMDW reports default by fiscal year; 
  • To create a excel pivot table from UMDW data:

Using InfoGriz

InfoGriz is a platform for UM Banner-related reports specific to award management, such as proposals, grant expenditures and a variety of cost match reports.  To obtain access to these reports, send an email request to the ORSP director.

Cost Transfers

  • Read the Cost Transfer Guidelines
  • Answer the justifications on the Cost Transfer Request Form completely, keeping in mind that auditors look at cost transfers very closely, and the justification must make sense to someone who knows nothing about the project
  • It is unacceptable to cost transfer from grant to grant because one grant is out of funds
  • If there are data entry errors by HRS or ORSP, these can be corrected by HRS or ORSP without a Cost Transfer Request Form, using email or telephone
  • If there is an expense account code error (no transfer between index codes), this can be corrected via email to ORSP

Cost Sharing

  • Read the Cost Sharing Guidelines
  • All cost share is documented on forms submitted to ORSP, except waived F&A (indirect) costs that are calculated by ORSP. Documentation should be reported as the project progresses (at least quarterly). There can be problems if reporting is delayed until the end of the project.
  • Most of the time, cost share can be met even if different than originally proposed, unless the terms & conditions state that sponsor prior approval is necessary for changes to cost share
  • Sponsor approval is needed if the PI is providing cost share for most of his/her time
  • Time & Effort
    • Read the Time & Effort Guidelines
      • Certify every line, or indicate “cost transfer” or “HRS error” – remember that the T&E report shows original payroll only and does not include any payroll cost transfers. Incorrect certification is a serious audit issue for UM.
      • If payroll doesn’t accurately reflect the time & effort, prepare an ORSP payroll cost transfer form, answering all justifications completely. ORSP processes all cost transfers than involve an award index.
    • With rare exceptions, funds from another award cannot be used for cost sharing
      • The right side of the T&E Report is used to document time spent by UM faculty or staff for the project that was paid from a different source
      • The grant index benefitting and the percentage of cost share provided are entered in the same blank on the report

Budget Revisions / Time Extensions / Additional Funding

  • If the budget is not being spent as proposed or if the project cannot be completed by the project end date, contact ORSP as soon as possible
  • An Organizational Prior Approval System (OPAS) form can sometimes be used for budget revisions or time extensions, depending on the award terms & conditions, but often sponsor prior approval is required
  • The Federal-Wide Research Terms and Conditions an give expanded authority to grant recipients for some expenditures - see the matrix
  • Budget revision - should be done in advance of incurring expenditures outside approved budget categories, or in advance of exceeding existing budget categories if variances are allowed; if award/sponsor terms and conditions don't specify allowability, ORSP may request an internal budget revision if expenses: 
    • fall outside of existing budget line items, or
    • in a budget line item exceed 25% of the line total and the budget line item is more than 1,000 over budget
  • Time extension – should be done well before the end date if the work will not be completed, but should not be done just because the project was finished under budget with funds remaining
    • If everything is finished but more time is needed for the PI’s final technical report, a reporting extension can be requested (not to be confused with a time extension)
  • Additional funding?  Refer to this determination chart to see whether or not an e-prop is required. 

Reports

  • Technical reports are a requirement of an award, and failure to submit technical reports on time can result in serious consequences:
    • UM may not receive payment from the sponsor, even if the money is already spent
    • The funding agency may not view future proposals from UM favorably if there is a history of incomplete technical reports, which can affect other UM PIs
  • Financial reports are prepared by ORSP from Banner, UM’s official financial system
  • Patent & Inventions reports as well as Property & Equipment reports are prepared by ORSP in cooperation with the department and PI

Closeout

  • ORSP sends a Grant End Memo to the PI and department 60 days before the grant end date. The department is given a certain number of days (60 on federal awards, often less on others) to submit necessary cost transfers, which gives ORSP a certain number of days (30 on federal awards, often less on others) to process necessary adjustments and submit the final financial report by the due date. The Grant End Memo is a reminder to move recurring charges and is also a reminder to submit a time extension if the work will not be completed by the end date.
  • PI can send an electronic copy of the final technical report to ORSP, but the PI is responsible for sending technical reports to the sponsor. Sometimes coordination with ORSP is necessary if the sponsor wants to receive all final reports in one package.
  • ORSP sends a Record Retention Memo to the PI and department that includes a record destroy date. UM’s current record retention guideline is 5 years following closeout of the award by ORSP. In the event of an audit, an undocumented expense is an unallowable expense. Unallowable expenses are refunded to the sponsor, and in the case of a general audit, these can be extrapolated and a percentage of unallowable expense can be applied to all awards, resulting in a significant financial penalty for UM. Serious audit findings can jeopardize all federal funding for UM, including student loans. In the event of an audit, record retention is increased to 5 years following the resolution of the audit.