(OMB) CIRCULAR A-21 - Office of Research

Office of Management
and Budget (OMB)
Principles for determining costs applicable to
grants, contracts, and other agreements
with educational institutions
CReATE ver. 05/13 © 2013 Florida State University. All rights reserved
OMB Circular A-21
DHHS Audit Experience
 Entrance Conference December 6, 2010
 Fieldwork December 6, 2010 – May 26, 2011
 Exit Conference May 27, 2011
 Draft report received from OIG November 16, 2011
 Response to draft submitted January 31, 2012
 Final report issued by DHHS OIG July 19, 2012
 Response to final report submitted October 9, 2012
 Audit Resolution Phase
 Awaiting DHHS decision on what division will negotiate
the final resolution with FSU
A-21: A Brief History
 Originally issued in 1958
 Significant changes made in 1996:
 Raised threshold for capitalizing equipment to $5,000
 Established use of Facilities & Administration (F&A)
rate(s) in effect at start of sponsored agreement over
life of agreement
 Incorporated four Cost Accounting Standards (CAS)
 Required educational institutions to submit a Disclosure
Statement (DS-2) regarding cost accounting practices
 Draft Super Circular issued
 Combines 7 circulars into one document
 COGR has issued draft response
 Responses to OMB due June 2, 2013
Why talk about OMB Circular A-21?
SRS and SRAS employees need to
refer to OMB Circulars A-21 and A110 (next presentation) on a daily
Every decision on federally funded
agreements is guided by these
A-21: Applicability
 To all research and development, training
and other work funded with federal funds at
educational institutions
 Principles used only as guide in pricing of
fixed price or lump sum agreements
 The Proposal budget on a fixed price
agreement is subject to audit for compliance
with A-21
 Basis for requiring a detailed budget on a fixed
price award
 Actual expenditures on a fixed price
agreement are not subject to audit
Major Functions
 Instruction
 Teaching and training activities
 Not research training
 Departmental research
Not organized research
Not separately budgeted
Not considered major function
 Organized Research
 Research and development activities
 Separately budgeted
 Includes research training
Major Functions
 Other Sponsored Activities
 Programs and projects that are service oriented
 Not instruction or organized research
 Examples
Head Start program
WFSU activities
 Other Institutional Activities
 All activities not otherwise classified
Dining facilities
F&A costs
Specialized Service Facilities
A-21: Direct Costs
 Can be identified specifically with a particular
sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other
institutional activity, or can be directly assigned to
such activities relatively easily with a high degree of
 Where an institution treats a particular type of cost as
direct cost of sponsored agreements, all costs
incurred for same purpose in like circumstances
must be treated as direct costs of all institutional
Direct Costs – Personnel Costs
Salaries and fringe benefits
 Faculty and other non administrative/clerical and
student employees working on the sponsored
 Job titles (not all inclusive)
 Researcher
 Lab Assistant/Researcher
 Graduate Research Assistant
Direct Costs – Non Personnel
 Other direct costs:
 Animals
 Animal care
 Audio-visual supplies (chemicals, glassware, etc.)
 Books and periodicals
 Specialized & technical svcs
 Consulting services
 Lab equipment & equipment maintenance
 Computer equipment and supplies - research purpose
 Laboratory supplies
 Long distance telephone
 Publication costs
 Rent & other off-campus facilities costs
 Scientific reprints
 Subawards
 Travel
 Tuition
Facilities & Administrative (F&A) Costs
Costs incurred for common or joint objectives
and, therefore, cannot be identified readily
and specifically with a particular sponsored
project, instructional activity, or any other
institutional activity
Computer Purchases
 Deemed to be “general purpose equipment”
per A-21 J18a(4)
 Generally unallowable as direct charges
 Requires approval in advance by awarding
 Refer to guidance issued in June 2012
 http://www.research.fsu.edu/contractsgra
 Included in proposal – adequate justification
 Not included in proposal – seek approval
Prior to purchase
A-21: Cost Accounting Standards
 CAS 501- Consistency in estimating,
accumulating and reporting costs
 Basis used in estimating costs in proposal
budget, charging costs to sponsored
agreement and reporting costs to sponsor
must be consistent with one another
 CAS 502- Consistency in allocating costs
incurred for same purpose
 All costs incurred for same purpose, in
like circumstances, are either direct
costs only or indirect costs only
A-21: Cost Accounting Standards
 CAS 505 - Accounting for unallowable costs
 Unallowable costs must be identified in
accounting system or identifiable from
departmental records
 CAS 506 - Cost accounting period
 FSU’s fiscal year – July 1, xxxx – June 30, xxxx
A-21: Disclosure Statement
 Large educational institutions
 $25 million per year or more in federally funded awards
 To cognitive agency (DHHS) for review and approval
 FSU Disclosure Statement (DS-2) History
 Submitted – June 1998
 FSU submitted revisions – September 2006, April 2009
and January 2010
 Received approval March 2010
 Revised capitalization threshold to $5,000 approved with
most recent negotiated F&A rate agreement in July 2012
Key FSU Practices
 Accounting system description: cash
 Cost accounting period: 7/1 to 6/30
 Capitalization of non-expendable
tangible personal property
 $5,000/useful life greater than one year
 Treatment of costs – direct and
indirect declared
FSU Policies Related to DS-2
 Issued a policy on Direct and Indirect Costs
of Sponsored Agreements
 Issued a policy on Cost Sharing
 Issued a policy on Unallowable Costs of
Federally Sponsored Projects
 Policies can be found on Sponsored Research
Web site ( http://www.research.fsu.edu )
A-21 Cost Principles
 Allowability Factors
 Reasonableness
 Allocability
 Consistency of treatment
 Conformity to limitations or
1 - Reasonable
 Prudent person would have paid the stated
amount for the goods/services
 Cost necessary to accomplish objectives of
sponsored award
 Restraints or requirements imposed by arm’slength bargaining/Federal & State
laws/sponsored award terms & conditions
 Due prudence
 Consistent with institutional policies
 Researcher requesting reimbursement for
purchase of 1,000 pipette tips from vendor with no
price agreement with FSU and paid for with
personal credit card. Price paid $.50/tip vs.
eMarket vendor cost = $.10/tip.
 Travel by researcher to Washington to discuss
technical issue on sponsored project with
sponsoring agency’s program manager.
Researcher followed FSU travel rules.
 Lunch for researcher and department chair at
Governor’s Club to discuss courses for next
 Not reasonable – did not follow
institutional policies
 Reasonable – meets criteria
 Not reasonable – not research
2 - Allocable
 Goods or services involved can be charged
in accordance with relative benefits received
 Identifiable to a sponsored award
 Incurred solely to advance work under
sponsored agreement
 Benefits more than one sponsored
project or other institutional activity, the
cost must be shared
 Necessary for operation of sponsored
and/or other institutional activity
 Equipment specifically authorized under
sponsored agreement, is assignable to
sponsored agreement regardless of any use
that may subsequently be made
Allocability - Lab Manager
 In multi award lab general duties must be
allocated across awards on a reasonable
basis. Examples,
 Training of students, other researchers in lab
protocols and procedures
 Animal care that may not be specific to one project
 Performing or supervising others in the preparation
of experiments, equipment maintenance, and lab
 Staying abreast of animal care developments
Example – Lab Manager
 Dr. Gold performs retinal research with
zebra fish on 2 R01 NIH awards and
conducts some departmental research.
 Ms. Seminole trains all students in lab
techniques and protocols (10%), orders
supplies for the lab (5%), cares for the fish
colonies (25%), performs experiments
assigned by Dr. Gold (60%)
 How allocate?
 40% general duties
 Both R01 grants
 Non sponsored source for the
departmental research
 % as determined by Dr. Gold
 60% directly related to performing
experiments allocated (Dr. Gold estimate)
Example – Salary Charges
 Research associate’s salary for month of
July 2008 charged to sponsored project
for actual work performed on project in
January 2008
 Research associate’s effort in July 2008
did not pertain to sponsored project
 Sponsored project period was 1/1/08 to
 Charge is unallowable because research
associate’s effort in July did not benefit
sponsored project
 This practice is referred to as “cost
substitution” and does not conform to A-21
Allocability – General Lab Supplies
 In multi award lab general lab supplies (pipettes,
gloves, etc.) must be allocated across awards on a
reasonable basis. Considerations,
 Can/will items be used by all awards in lab?
Specialized items?
 Is item used for general lab upkeep?
 What are the lab supply and ordering practices?
 Is there non sponsored research occurring in the lab?
 Length of awards using items?
 What type of experiments are being conducted?
Example – General Lab Supplies
 Dr. Tomahawk performs sense of smell research with
rats and has 1 R01 NIH and 2 NSF grants all in the
same lab. The aims do not overlap but all of the
grants use similar research techniques and
 The lab manager requests for purchase 5000 pipette
tips ($500), 300 glass test tubes ($150) and 1
gustometer ($6,000) that will be used only on the R01
 How should the items purchased be charged to each
Answer 1
 The pipette tips and test tubes should be
allocated to all awards:
 PI estimate % of usage on each award
 Charge 100% of gustometer to the R01
Answer 2
 Each researcher works on only 1 award and
requests supplies from lab manager monthly:
 Grad Student A (R01) 2000 pipette tips =
 Grad Student B (NSF A) 2000 pipette tips 200
test tubes = $300
 Grad Student C (NSF B) 1000 pipette tips and
100 test tubes = $150
 Charge 100% of gustometer to the R01
award = $6,000
Allocability – Service Agreements
 In multi award lab service agreements for equipment
must be allocated across awards on a reasonable basis.
 When was the equipment purchased? Source of
funding? Source active?
 What is the equipment used for? What projects require
the use of the equipment for the svc agmt period
 Is there non sponsored research occurring in the lab?
 Length of awards using items?
 What type of experiments are being conducted?
Example – Service Agreement
 Dr. Tomahawk performs sense of smell research with
rats and has 1 R01 NIH (ends 6/30/2012) and 2 NSF
grants (both end 12/31/2013) all in the same lab. The
aims do not overlap but all of the grants use similar
research techniques and equipment.
 There are 5 centrifuges in the lab. The R01 uses the
3 large centrifuges and the 2 NSF awards use the 2
smaller ones with equal usage.
 Each service agreement costs $500 for period
 How should the service agreements’ costs be
charged to each award?
R01 = $750
NSF A = $500
NSF B = $500
Non sponsored source = $750
Total = $2,500
 Note rotation among awards generally not
acceptable method
Example – Equipment
 Dr. Garnett purchased a microscope costing
$10,000 on an NSF-funded project during last
month of a one-year grant period. The
microscope has a 5 year life.
 The microscope was included in the budget
approved by the agency.
 The equipment was required to complete the
analysis phase of research.
 Charge for this equipment is allowable as it
was purchased during grant period.
 Even though equipment had five year useful
life and was used only one month of grant
period, it conforms to A-21 provision
“specifically authorized in grant… regardless of
subsequent use”.
Allocability – Cost Transfer Policy
 Effective April 1, 2008; revised July 1, 2010
 http://www.research.fsu.edu/contractsgrants/
 Expenditure transfers to or between
sponsored projects
 Red flags
 Frequent transfers
 Transfers close to end of project
 Inadequate documentation to support transfer
Cost Transfers
 Improper cost transfers
 Cover overruns
 Spend available balance close to end of project
 Transfer of unallowable cost from one project to
 Circumvention of award limitation/restriction
 Charge costs to one project that belong to an
award not yet executed
 Advance policy enacted for this reason!
Cost Transfers
 Allowable transfers
 Correct erroneous charge
 Allocate portion of charge that applies to the project (e.g.
split purchases)
 Cost Transfer Justification Form at
 Must be received by SRAS as follows:
 Within 90 calendar days from the end of the month in
which the error occurred (personnel and non-personnel)
 Retroactive Distribution of Funding
 Moving salary between or onto projects reallocating
original ePAF distribution as a result of the effort
certified is acceptable justification for salary cost
Cost Transfers
 Cost transfers not received by SRAS by deadline
will only be approved in extenuating
circumstances, which does not include:
Absences of PI or project administrators
Non qualified staff
Shortage of staff
 SRAS Compliance Committee reviews on
weekly basis
 SRAS Director approves >$25,000 or > 90 days
 Monthly reconciliations needed to detect and
correct errors within established timeframes
Controller’s Office offers training:
BTFA03 - General Ledger Reconciliation
Cost Transfers
 Justifications – what not to say!
 “Charged to NSF grant waiting for NIH
grant to get set up.”
 “Reconciliations were not performed for 6
months because of support staff turnover.”
 “There are funds left on Project Aaa and we
want to spend the balance. We charged the
costs to Project Bee but now that there is
funding left so we need to move the costs.”
Example – Cost Transfers
 A graduate assistant worked and was paid 50% on
grant from US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and 50%
on grant from National Science Foundation (NSF).
Each grant was charged 50% of tuition. Since USDA
policy does not permit charges for tuition, the PI
requested that the tuition charge be transferred from
USDA account to NSF account.
 Would you approve this cost transfer?? Why or Why
 Tuition charge transferred to NSF
account is unallowable because
 Charge to NSF grant (now at 100%) was
not proportional to effort devoted to NSF
grant (50%)
 Transfer was made to avoid restriction of
USDA policy.
Example – Cost Transfers
 At the start of Fall 2011 semester, Dr. Nole
was appointed as follows:
E&G funding = 65%
NIH P01 award = 20%
NSF award = 15%
 Dr. Nole certified his Fall 2011 effort report
as follows:
E&G funding = 65%
NIH P01 award = 15% (Error occurred <20%
NSF award = 20%
 How do we resolve the effort error??
 An RDF is required to move 5% from the
NIH to the NSF award.
 Allowable because it “trues” up to actual
 Meets time criterion because as a result of
actual effort
 Requesting the PI to change his/her effort
certification “to get rid of the error” IS NOT
the solution!!!!
Cost Transfers - NIH Policy
The NIH Grants Policy Statement
 Cost Transfers to NIH grants by grantees…should be
accomplished within 90 days…
 Transfers must be supported by documentation that fully
explains how error occurred and certification of
correctness of new charge by responsible University
official …
 Stating that transfer was made “to correct error” or “to
transfer to correct project” is not sufficient.
 Transfers of costs solely to cover cost overruns are not
Cost Transfers - NIH policy
 Grantee’s must maintain prescribed documentation of
cost transfers and must make it available for audit…
 Frequent errors in recording costs may indicate need
for accounting system improvements and/or
enhanced internal controls.
 If such errors occur, grantees are encouraged to
evaluate need for improvements and to make
whatever improvements are deemed necessary to
prevent reoccurrence.
 NIH also may require a grantee to take corrective
action by imposing additional terms and conditions on
an award.
Allocation & Documentation
Standard - Internal Controls
 An institution's financial
management system must provide
that no one person has complete
control over all aspects of a
financial transaction
Example – Internal Control
 PI (also department chair) prepares TAR for
PI’s travel and signs as traveler, PI and PI’s
 PI prepares travel reimbursement and
reconciles departmental accounting records.
 Is this appropriate?
 No
This would be an unacceptable practice and
would not meet the criteria of A-21
 FSU’s signature requirements on accounting
documents prevents an internal control
violation such as this from occurring
Allocation & Documentation
Standard - Applicable Credits
 Applicable credits must be applied to related
 Typical examples of applicable credits are:
purchase discounts, rebates, or allowances;
and adjustments of overpayments or
erroneous charges
Example – Applicable Credits
 Lab equipment was purchased in July 2011
for $2,000 on Dr. Gold’s R01 grant that ended
September 30, 2011.
 In September 2011 it was discovered that the
vendor overcharged for the equipment by
 A credit was received and the department
charged the credit to Dr. Gold’s P01 award
because it was the only award open.
 Is this appropriate?
 The $500 credit should have been applied
against Dr. Gold’s R01 grant that was closed
 SRAS is supposed to receive all refund
checks when related to sponsored
 Department submits refund form that includes
chartfield information where the original
charge was posted
 SRAS verifies chartfields to ensure the
appropriate sponsored project is credited
even if project is closed
Limitations on Allowance of Costs
 Sponsored agreements may be subject to
statutory requirements that limit allowance of
 When maximum amount allowable under
limitation is less than total amount allowed in
A-21, amount not recoverable under
sponsored agreement may not be charged to
other sponsored agreements
 Must be funded by a non-sponsored source of
Example – Limitations
 PI had an NIH grant and devoted 50%
effort to it during month of August 2005
PI’s annual salary rate was $190,000/yr,
Grant period was Feb. 05 to Jan. 06
Grant was charged $7,917 (50% of
$15,834) for PI’s August salary
NIH had salary rate cap of $180,100/yr or
$15,008/mo for 2005
[Current 2012 NIH Salary Cap is $179,700]
 Costs of $413 are unallowable because the
salary charged to the grant exceeded the
sponsoring agency’s “rate of pay” limitation
 Maximum amount chargeable to grant for 50%
effort was $7,504 (50% of $15,008)
 The grant should have been charged $7,504 for
effort and amount in excess of the NIH cap
($7,917-$7,504=$413) charged to E&G or another
unrestricted funding source
[Current (2012) NIH Salary Cap is $179,700]
Cost Accounting Standard 502
 CAS 502- Consistency in allocating costs
incurred for same purpose
 All costs incurred for same purpose, in
like circumstances, are either direct
costs only or indirect costs only
Cost Accounting Standard (CAS) Exemption
Allowable to charge Administrative costs directly to
the sponsored project
 Exceptional Circumstances
Must be approved in advance of charges normally
classified as administrative being charged directly to
a project
 Try to handle at proposal stage
Exceptional Circumstances –
 If the nature of a sponsored project
requires an extensive amount of
administrative and/or clerical support or
goods/services significantly greater
than the routine level provided by an
academic department, then the effort is
deemed an exceptional circumstance and
such costs can be accounted for as direct
Exceptional Circumstances –
Other conditions required
Be specifically identifiable to a particular
sponsored project
Meet A-21 requirements for
reasonableness, allowability and allocability
Be specified in the proposal budget and
approved by the sponsoring agency
Exceptional Circumstances Documentation Requirements
 CAS Form
 Complete and submit to SRS
 Salaries:
 Title(s), FTE, and salary amount(s) for the
clerical/administrative position(s)
 What it is about the scope of the project that
requires this extensive effort
 Other Costs (office supplies, memberships,
postage, local telephone, cell phones, etc.):
 Description and cost of supplies/services
 What it is about the scope of the project that
requires these goods/services to further the
research or other sponsored activity
Exceptional circumstances –
 Large, complex programs, such as Clinical
Research Centers, program projects, environmental
research & engineering research centers & projects
that entail assembling & managing teams of
investigators from a number of institutions
 Projects which involve extensive data
accumulation, analysis & data entry, surveying,
tabulation, cataloging, searching literature, & reporting,
such as epidemiological studies & clinical records
 Projects that require making travel & meeting
arrangements for large numbers of participants,
such as conferences and seminars
Exceptional circumstances –
Examples (cont’d)
Projects whose principal focus is the preparation &
production of manuals & large reports, books &
monographs (excluding routine progress & technical
Projects that are geographically inaccessible to
normal departmental administrative services, such as
seagoing research vessels, radio astronomy projects, &
other research field sites that are remote from campus.
Individual projects requiring project-specific database
management; individualized graphics or manuscript
preparation; human or animal protocols; and multiple
project-related investigator coordination and
Example - CAS Exemption
 Professor Washington is awarded a $5,000,000 (5 year)
grant to coordinate Medical teams from all Florida
universities to train medical professionals on new
geriatric caretaking techniques. Training meetings are to
be conducted 4 times per year at different locations
across the state.
 Professor Washington is requesting a CAS exemption for
two administrative positions to coordinate the training
teams, organize training conferences including travel
arrangements for the University teams and to do
outreach to the bring/entice the professionals to
participate in the training. These positions were included
in the budget approved by the agency.
 Approve or Deny????
Example - CAS Exemption
 Professor Adams is awarded a $50,000 (1 year)
grant to write and produce training materials for the
US Dept of Education’s early childhood education
program. The materials will be used to train
childcare professionals.
 Professor Adams is requesting a CAS exemption to
charge $25,000 for printing/reproduction of 1,000
manuals. These costs were included in the budget
approved by the agency.
 Approve or Deny????
F&A Costs and Rate Agreement
 F&A costs defined as those incurred for common or joint objectives
and, therefore, cannot be identified readily and specifically with a
particular sponsored project, instructional activity, or any other
institutional activity
F&A a.k.a. Overhead a.k.a. Indirect Costs
 FSU negotiates F&A rates with the FSU’s cognitive agency –
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Cost
Allocation (DCA)
 Negotiations culminate in a Rate Agreement at
F&A Cost Categories
 Facilities
Building and Equipment Depreciation
Operations and Maintenance
 Administration
General Administration
Departmental Administration
Sponsored Projects Administration
Student Services Administration
F&A Rate Development
 Negotiating cycle is every four years
 Prepare and submit F&A cost allocation proposal
 FSU’s current rates negotiated July 2012
 Effective through June 30, 2016
 Objective of the F&A allocation proposal is to aggregate
and distribute F&A costs to the major functions of
the institution in proportions reasonably consistent
with the nature and extent of their use
F&A Rate Application
 Multiple Rates are allowed:
On Campus – comprised of both facility and administrative
Off Campus – comprised of administrative costs only (26%)
Separate functions – rates for instruction, organized
research, and other sponsored activity
Separate rate for NHMFL at FSU
 The actual charge to the sponsored project is
calculated by multiplying the F&A rate by the
distribution base
Facilities & Administrative Rates
 Organized Research
 On Campus 51.3% (52% effective July 1, 2014)
 Off Campus 26.0%
 National High Magnetic Field Lab (NHMFL) Rate
 On Campus 70.0%
 Off Campus 26.0%
F&A Distribution Bases
 Federal = Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC)
 Exclusions:
Equipment/capital expenditures
Patient care
Subcontract amount > $25,000
Tuition Remission
 State of Florida = Total Direct Costs (TDC)
 Exclusion:
Tuition Remission
Example Calculation
Materials and Supplies
Total Direct Costs
F&A Base
F&A Rate
F&A Amount
Total Project Cost
F&A Costs Recovered
 The F&A costs recovered by the University from
charges made to sponsored projects are placed into
the Sponsored Research and Development (SRAD)
 Presentation on the SRAD recovery and distribution
A-21: Selected Items of Cost
 A-21 principles must be applied in establishing
allowability of cost, whether particular item is treated
as direct cost or indirect cost
 Fifty-four specific items of costs are addressed in
section J.
 Other items not specified may be allowable or
 Items specifically stated as “allowable” must
meet the “allowability principles”
Section J. Unallowable Costs
Public Relations
Alcoholic Beverages
Bad Debts
Improvements to land, buildings, or equip that increase
value or life (unless prior agency approval)
Section J. Unallowable Costs
Goods or Services for personal use
Losses on other awards
Preagreement/pre award (unless approved by agency)
Student Activity Fees (unless specifically provided for
in award)
A-21: Certification of Charges/Payment
 Required on financial reports and
payment requests
 Reads essentially as follows: "I certify
that all expenditures reported (or
payment requested) are for appropriate
purposes and in accordance with the
provisions of the application and award
 SRAS requests PI signature on final
expenditure report or invoice

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