Uniform Guidance Implementation

Last updated: 10/19/2014

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has combined many federal circulars, including A-21, A-110 and A-133, into a single guidance document.  The old rules are not going away – they are simply repackaged and slightly modified.  The new combined document is known as the “Uniform Guidance” and is codified at 2 CFR 200.  Federal agencies are currently developing their implementation plans under this guidance and these new regulations will become effective on December 26, 2014.  This website provides information on how the University of Florida is addressing the impacts from these changes.

University of Florida Implementation of the OMB Uniform Guidance

A working group has been meeting bi-weekly to review the new guidance to determine the impact of the new regulations to existing policy, procedures and training and to ensure a plan for broad and effective communication strategies.

In general, there is increased emphasis on an institution “strengthening internal controls” over the management of funds.  The guidance references internal controls 45 times.  Internal controls are defined as a process designed to provide reasonable assurance of effective and efficient operations, reliability of reporting, and compliance with laws and regulations.

Major points of emphasis and the implications for UF at this time are:

  • Cost Principles – All costs must be reasonable, allocable and necessary to the performance of the work. Details of some sections with changes:
  • Computers – Section 200.453 of the guidance clarifies “In the specific case of computing devices, charging as direct costs is allowable for devices that are essential and allocable, but not solely dedicated, to the performance of a Federal award.” Given that affirming the allocability of computers to grants is still a high risk activity, UF will continue to require CAS exemption forms for these items.  Budgeting for and clearly documenting how the computer is essential to the project would be one factor in the review of the request.

DSP RECOMMENDS, THAT FOR ANY PROJECT WHERE A COMPUTER IS ESSENTIAL AND ALLOCABLE AND CAN BE DOCUMENTED AS SUCH, TO INCLUDE THESE IN YOUR BUDGET AND JUSTIFICATIONS STARTING IMMEDIATELY.

  • Administrative & Clerical Support –Section 200.413 requires that to be allowable as direct costs, the salaries of clerical and administrative staff must meet all of the following conditions:
    • Administrative or clerical services are integral to a project or activity;
    • Individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity;
    • Such costs are explicitly included in the budget or have the prior written approval of the Federal awarding agency; and
    • The costs are not also recovered as indirect costs.

Note that you MUST include these charges in your budget and clearly justify the need in order to be allowed to charge Administrative & Clerical support directly to your grant.  If they are NOT included in the approved agency budget, you must seek prior approval through DSP from the Sponsor before being allowed to charge these to your project.  DSP recommends for the budget justifications, clearly including the positions, cost and reason that the project has a need for dedicated administrative and clerical personnel and the role that these individuals will play in the project.  If awarded, DSP will require a CAS exemption form to be completed, reviewed, and approved for these charges to be expensed to your project.  Note that small amounts of time spread over a number of projects is not allowable.  Small amounts of effort are difficult to justify.  DSP recommends that administrative or clerical time must exceed 20% of an individuals total effort to be proposed as direct charged to any sponsored project.  Any effort less than 20% should generally be recovered as indirect costs. The individual must have a clearly identified contribution to the project.

DSP RECOMMENDS, THAT FOR ANY PROJECT WHERE ADMINSTRATIVE OR CLERICAL SUPPORT MEETS THE REQUIREMENTS LISTED ABOVE, TO INCLUDE THESE IN YOUR BUDGET AND JUSTIFICATIONS STARTING IMMEDIATELY.

  • Effort Reporting – The standards for documenting personnel charges on sponsored projects remain. There is some flexibility in the method of documentation, but the overall policy and requirements are not changed.  UF will work to clarify its policy on Institutional Base Salary but anticipates no procedural changes. Effort reporting in myUFL will continue once per semester for all individuals paid or cost shared on sponsored projects.
  • Subrecipient monitoring – There is an increased emphasis on the role of the prime award recipient in monitoring the fiscal and programmatic performance of its subrecipients. UF is required to evaluate each subrecipient’s risk of noncompliance with Federal regulations and the terms of the award for the purposes of determining the appropriate subrecipient monitoring.  Factors for such evaluation and the options to monitor are laid out in section 200.331.  UF is working with national groups like the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) to outline the least burdensome and most consistent approach to this evaluation.  No matter what the outcome, UF investigators on projects with subrecipients will be required to collect, review and retain subrecipient’s programmatic reports as required by the terms of the subaward and continue to review invoices and ensure that the subrecipient is performing work at least equivalent to the charges billed.
  • Fixed price outgoing SubawardsSponsor prior approval will be required in order for UF to issue a fixed price subaward rather than a cost-reimbursement subaward. The total cost of each fixed price subaward may not exceed $150,000. UF typically uses fixed price subawards with foreign subrecipients, clinical trial site agreements and occasionally with small organizations. To expedite sponsor approval, Investigators must clearly indicate in the proposal/budget narrative that the budgeted subaward for (Insert Subrecipient name) will be issued as a fixed price subaward. UF will consider this fixed price subaward approved if the award is made and no contrary guidance has been provided by the sponsor in the award notice.

STARTING IMMEDIATELY, DSP RECOMMENDS, THAT FOR ANY PROJECT WHERE AN OUTGOING SUBAWARD IS CONTEMPLATED TO BE FIXED PRICE, A CLEAR STATEMENT MUST BE INCLUDED IN THE PROPOSAL/BUDGET NARRATIVE THAT INDICATES THE BUDGETD SUBAWARD FOR (Insert Subrecipient name) WILL BE ISSUED AS A FIXED PRICE SUBAWARD.

  • Fixed amount awards – As with all proposals, applications for fixed amount awards must be based on the cost principles. To this end, the University will require that all budgets for all types of awards are built, routed and approved at a minimum category level budget, with key personnel broken out by name and effort commitment.  The guidance requires that any deviation from the effort commitment, even for fixed amount awards, by 25% or more be approved by the Sponsor, in writing, prior to the change.
  • Closeout – There is increased scrutiny on the timeline for closeout of an award. UF has already experienced increased pressure from sponsors to ensure timely closeout of all awards.  Investigators and administrators are encouraged to monitor charges throughout the life of the award to expedite the fiscal closeout. In addition, PI’s are expected to file all technical and invention reports within 90 days of the expiration of the award.

Other items to watch:

  • Participant Support Costs in all budgets will be excluded from the F&A base. We are seeking clarification whether this applies immediately to all budgets  or only after the next F&A agreement is negotiated.
  • There are significant changes in the procurement requirements. They are so significant that the research community was successful in delaying the implementation for one year (effectively for UF until 7/1/2016).  These changes will require bids, quotes, and increased documentation on all purchases greater than $3,000.  As we have 18 additional months to review and prepare guidance in this area, we simply mention this of note at this time.

The Federal Guidance

Council on Governmental Relations (COGR)

Videos from the National Council of University Research Administrators

Members of the UF review team include:

  • David Norton, PhD, Vice President for Research
  • Amy Hass, Associate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
  • Mike McKee, Interim Chief Financial Officer
  • Stephanie Gray, Director, Division of Sponsored Programs
  • Brian Prindle, Associate Director, Division of Sponsored Programs
  • Irene Cooke, PhD, DVM, Assistant Vice President, Director of Research Compliance
  • Brad Staats, Assistant Vice President, Director of Contracts & Grants Accounting
  • Tiffany Schmidt, Associate Director, Contracts & Grants Accounting
  • Brenda Harrell, Assistant Controller, Cost Analysis