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In This Month’s E-News: July 2019

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is questioning $15,508 in stipend and tuition assistance and $3,018 in travel costs it said were “incurred outside of the period of performance,” according to a June 3 audit of the University of Cincinnati (UC). Overall, auditors “tested $935,601 of the approximately $33 million of costs claimed to NSF” on awards expended from Aug. 1, 2014, to July 31, 2017.

As auditors explained, “UC allocated a total of $15,508 (tuition of $6,000, plus $9,508 of stipend) for Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) costs to NSF Award No. [redacted], which expired on November 30, 2015. On March 31, 2016, UC moved these expenses” to a new award with a different number. UC opposed the finding, arguing that the “two awards are a continuation of the same project” and that a GRFP analyst responding to a draft of the audit called the costs “allowable” and “authorized.” UC agreed with a finding disallowing $3,018 in travel costs, which OIG said consisted of $1,922 that UC claimed as a direct cost and $1,096 that auditors calculated. OIG said an expense report for the travel, which was to a conference, was approved three months before the event took place and a week after the award itself expired.

In related news, NSF resolved a 2018 audit of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), agreeing with OIG that $331,114 in questioned charges would be repaid. MIT had concurred with the findings, which consisted of $255,745 in inappropriate claims due to the use of an incorrect cost rate on 50 awards from 2008 to 2016; $52,524 for expenses, of which all but $1,520 were for travel that auditors said was “not related” to the awards that were used to pay for them; $17,266 for equipment; $4,254 for unsupported expenses; and $1,325 for “unallowable foreign airfare” (“In This Month’s E-News,” RRC 15, no. 11). Interestingly, NSF did not concur with a non-financial OIG finding related to the purchase of five airline tickets. “NSF does not sustain the finding. MIT’s travel policy to purchase airline tickets at least 14 days in advance of travel is a best practice, not a requirement,” according to the June 4 audit resolution report. (6/13/19)