Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Ask an Expert: Tips and Tools of the Trade, Series 3

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Ask an Expert: Tips and Tools of the Trade, Series 3

Article excerpt

I. Is this Permitted?

Q: Where is the regulation allowing me to ... ?

A: It is fundamental to our society that we can do anything that is not prohibited or controlled by law or regulation. We research administrators spend so much time dealing with limiting regulations that we forget this fundamental freedom. Assume an activity is permitted unless prohibited or regulated.

2. Learn Foreign Business and Cultural Practices

Q: Our institution has a few agreements that require subawarding with other countries whose business practices are different from the U.S. practices we take for granted. How can we learn about those foreign practices and determine what controls we must put in place to protect our institution?

A: Use your institution's resources! It is likely that some faculty member in the business school knows about these different practices and how to adapt U.S. practices to meet them. Graduate students from those countries may also be a resource. Your institution's strengths in multiculturalism will help make better international agreements. Also, if USAID or some other experienced agency is the prime sponsor, review their resources on foreign practices and listen to their suggestions.

3. Foreign Agreements

Q: Are there special concerns for foreign subawardees?

A: The following ones are the most important. Some subawardees have systems similar enough to those of the U.S. that few problems occur. Others may not. Co-mingling of funds is common in many foreign entities, so ensuring that the subaward be set up in an account not co-mingled with any other funds is extremely important. If nothing else works, require a separate bank account. Foreign entities often do not measure or track effort. Be sure the foreign institution has an appropriate way to measure time and effort. You may have to provide advice on how to do that. I recommend that you include a clause warranting that the individual who signs the agreement has the authority to execute on behalf of the institution. Also be sure to include a clause under which the subrecipient will reimburse you any costs paid but later found to be unallowable by audit.

4. Flow Down to Foreign Entities

Q: A foreign subcontractor wants to say that it will comply only with those "federal laws provided to it by us"! If a foreign entity applies as a subcontractor, shouldn't it be responsible for knowing which regulations apply to it? Should we just refer them to the "dot gov" web site and tell them all the regulations they need are there? If it is an NIH sub, is the NIH Grants Policy Manual (GPS) comprehensive enough?

A: You should treat a foreign recipient without previous experience with your prime agency as completely unknowledgeable. Be explicit about applicable regulations. You should specify applicable CFR's and OMB Circulars as well as award language. Provide URLs rather than copying, or even worse, paraphrasing, the material. Also inform them what does not apply; you need to know those things anyway to ensure proper monitoring of them. For example, specify that "requests to the sponsor agency" come to you, not the sponsor. You will have to add some clauses to your stock subagreement to handle these special matters. The NIH GPM is a good place to understand generally what is required in foreign subawards; a section is devoted to it. Also provide your foreign partner a contact to answer specific questions about applicability. Remember, YOU are responsible for the performance of the sub, in all ways.

5. Applicable Cost Principles

Q: How does subawarding affect cost principles?

A: For federal funds, the nature of the recipient determines which cost principles apply. OMB Circular A-21 applies to Educational Institutions. OMB Circular A-87 covers State, Local and Indian Tribal Governments. OMB Circular A-122 covers Non-Profit Organizations. FPR (Federal Procurement Regulations) and its required accounting practices disclosures cover forprofits. …

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