Financial Record Keeping on Federal Research Awards
Matthew Fajack, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
University of Florida’s sponsored research has rapidly grown, by 70 percent in the past 10 years, ranking us 12th among public research universities nationally. At the same time, administrative and compliance challenges for federal research at universities across the country have also increased.
Chief Audit Executive Brian Mikell and I shared with UF’s Board of Trustees the results of internal audits of federally funded research awards. These audits and other work have identified opportunities to improve and simplify certain sponsored research business processes for time (effort) reporting, cost transfers and cost sharing.
A state audit of federal awards shows, based on a limited sample, similar opportunities for improvement. Those findings were presented to the Trustees today by a representative of the office of the Auditor General of the State of Florida. In addition, a periodic federal audit is underway now, and we expect that it may identify areas in need of improvement.
The challenges we face are the result of the rapid growth of research awards and the size and decentralized research environment at UF. To address these challenges, we established a university-wide task force in March to identify ways to strengthen the university’s financial record keeping on federally funded research. We must ensure that our financial recordkeeping meets the same high standards as our excellent research. The task force’s work is now well underway, and it is expected to issue a plan by the end of the month.
The plan includes:
- Changing the process we use for cost transfers and cost-sharing
- Developing new mandatory training for personnel administering contracts and grants
- Centrally monitoring reports to identify and solve problems in a timely manner
- Making certain reports, including effort reporting, simpler and more understandable
- Working with our internal auditor and cooperating with the state and federal auditors to identify further steps necessary to assure compliant financial record keeping.
Starting July 1 the following policies apply:
- Redistributions of payroll (“retros”) will now also require the completion of cost transfer forms if the redistributions involve a transfer of salary to funds 201 or 209. The form will be completed online in conjunction with the retro.
- Expense-to-expense (E2E) and expense-to-revenue (E2R) processes performed through Accounts Payable will be discontinued. Instead, all of these cost transfer transactions will be performed via the journal entry process. This change is for grants-related and non-grants-related transactions. Look for additional information to be provided by Finance and Accounting to the university’s accounting listserv and other contact lists.
- All journal entries involving a transfer of non-payroll expenses to funds 201 or 209 must be accompanied by a cost transfer form.
- We have enhanced the functionality of payroll projections. The ability to enter future fiscal year payroll distributions using UF Payroll Distributions in myUFL will allow campus users to look at the PI Summary and Grant Summary reports from the perspective of the award instead of the fiscal year. Viewing projected payroll distributions in reports and the FIT cube will allow PIs and their administrators the ability to project and budget more effectively.
A workshop titled “Grants Accounting Update” (course number GET195) will be held this month to explain these changes in more detail. To register, please visit my.ufl.edu, My Self Service, Training and Development Home, Request Training Enrollment, Search by Course Number GET195. A polycom session will be available for IFAS employees on June 21 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in McCarty Hall. To register for that workshop, please contact Lee Esther Wallace, IFAS Human Resources, at email@example.com. Additionally, GET195 will be available online by the end of June.
Please plan to attend an overview session to learn more about these changes, which are designed to support standards surrounding grants accounting at the University of Florida. Questions? Please contact Brad Staats at (352) 273-3136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The work that is now underway will directly affect many faculty as well as staff. Your strong commitment to these efforts is critical. We will keep you posted about relevant changes, which will enhance our business process and administrative support for research awards.
Please share this with any faculty and staff that may be impacted by these changes. Thank you for your attention to these important efforts that will position the University of Florida well for continued growth and success in our research endeavor.