In a previous blog we explored the roles and responsibilities the Institution and Office of Sponsored Programs hold in managing the grant funding pipeline. This installment considers the requirements of the PI and Department. These duties range from overseeing personnel details, to closeouts. Implementing a process for monitoring closing dates and anticipated award receipts enables the proactive review of upcoming activities. To more efficiently monitor these various aspects, consider investing in a grant management software solution. This leads to effective grant funding management and resource administration.
The Principal Investigator and Department
- Grant and support personnel
- Equipment acquisitions
- Partner subrecipients
- Release time for research activities
Grant and Support Personnel
The employment and termination processes for grant and support personnel are time consuming and subject to institutional and government requirements. While someone cannot be hired until grant funding is available, there are steps that can be initiated when an award is reasonably expected.
- Job descriptions: The PI and Human Resources can work in tandem to write and approve the position descriptions. In developing job descriptions, categories that are frequently used, such as research technician, can be standardized for quick utilization. Position vacancy summaries can be prepared and held for release as needed. All salary estimates should be reflected in the proposal. If all the data is available, then once grant funding is awarded, the vacancy announcements can be posted quickly.
- Termination or Moving employees to a different source of funding: If personnel need to be terminated at the close of a project, there are specific, legal steps that must be followed. The process must be timed accurately to comply with institutional and governmental regulations. Moving salaries paid after the project’s termination, especially to another funded project, can raise red flags and increase audit risk.
Any leave accrual needs to be reviewed and planned according to institutional policies. If institutional policy is to pay leave in a lump sum against the final grant funding source, the grant may be liable for leave earned in prior positions. Many institutions have moved to including leave payout in the Indirect Cost agreement, and have created a category in the fringe benefit rate that pools a certain percentage that is then used for all leave payout charges.
If an employee is set to move to another funding source, then the paperwork needs to be submitted in time for the change in assignment and to charge the new grant funding source for work performed after the close of the current project.
Any capitalized equipment should be monitored and inventoried throughout its lifespan. Although many institutions now adhere to federal capitalization categories, some may label equipment differently. Early discussions with Fixed Assets and the department will ensure an accurate classification of equipment.
When anticipating grant funding, upfront descriptions and price quotes can be obtained prior to the award receipt. This provides sufficient lead time to meet institutional requirements for bids if necessary. Then equipment orders can be processed quickly, and the items can be received in a timely manner.
When a project is nearing closure, inventory records should be compared to the project’s charges to ensure all equipment has been identified. Future utilization of all items should be determined. Most funding agencies permit the institution to retain the title to an item, but if the terms of the award differ, the appropriate steps should be put in place prior to the termination date.
Partners, Subrecipients and Subcontractors
Open and early communication with research partners is critical. Each sub-agreement and contract party should clearly understand the responsibilities and expectations. The grant funding proposal process requires early involvement with subrecipients. Normally they are involved before the proposal is submitted. The Uniform Guidance specifies monitoring requirements for subawardees, detailed at: 200.331.
The closeout process for the monitored sub recipients runs the entire life of the project. Issues that arise near the termination date often revolve around timing. Some areas include:
- The timing of the final invoice and end date.
- Whether the end date will be earlier than the prime award, allowing time for a final review and payment.
- If the tightening of the 90-day prime closeout requirement has led to issues for the subrecipients.
Each of these need to be discussed either prior to drafting a sub-award, or early in the project.
Release Time for Research Activities
Release time charged to a funded project is normally included in the proposal budget and justification. Discussions should be held early with department chairs, deans and supervisors to ensure clarity in expectations. Decisions must be made as to whether the grant funding will pay for this release from teaching, or if the institution routinely offers options for successful major awards. There is normally a written policy, either institution-wide or departmental. Cooperation across the department, Office of Sponsored Programs and Human Resources is needed to ensure the accurate funding source. Effort reporting has to be updated at award to document the effort if it is part of committed effort. If the source of funds will change, the necessary paperwork must be completed prior to the release time period.
Grant Funding Closeout
Closeout often receives very little attention until the last few months of a project. In reality, preparation for closing a project should begin when grant funding is awarded. If records are maintained accurately, timetables set and agreed upon, and communication is clear across all partners, closeout activities become less stressful and completed more quickly.
To find the right grant management solutions for your department, contact the IT Works team today for more information on how we can tailor our products to fit your specific needs.