Grey Penalty Area: Councils Claw Back Millions for Admin Errors: News

By Fern, Richard | The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, September 5, 2013 | Go to article overview

Grey Penalty Area: Councils Claw Back Millions for Admin Errors: News


Fern, Richard, The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE


But FoI request shows huge variations within RCUK over the extent of sanctions. Richard Fern reports.

The research councils have clawed back more than Pounds 2 million from universities and other institutions in the past five years for failing to submit adequate financial and other reports.

A Freedom of Information request also reveals large variations in the severity of sanctions, with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council issuing fines totalling almost Pounds 1.5 million in the period measured, while the Arts and Humanities Research Council issued none.

Sanctions are levied against research institutions that fail to meet the administrative terms and conditions of their funding, such as filing financial expenditure reports. Research Councils UK guidance says councils can recover 20 per cent of their grant expenditure if the reports are late and all of it "if the report or statement is not received within six months of the end of the grant".

The FoI responses show that at least Pounds 2,442,954 has been issued in sanctions over the five-year period, not including fines that were later cleared on appeal.

But there are massive variations between councils. The EPSRC issued Pounds 1,420,471 in sanctions, although Pounds 704,455 of this could still be subject to appeal. The figures for the Natural Environment Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council are Pounds 315,943 and Pounds 341,476, respectively. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council fined three universities a total of Pounds 315,179 in the past two years.

By contrast, neither the Science and Technology Facilities Council nor the AHRC applied any, while the Medical Research Council reports just one (for Pounds 46,985). …

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