Why Faculty Complete the Faculty Effort Certification (FEC)
The Federal government requires the University to maintain a system of records which provide documentation that the charges on sponsored agreements reasonably reflect the total activity for which the employee is compensated. Sponsored agreements include grants, contracts and cooperative agreements.
eCFR, Title 2, Subtitle A, Chapter II, Part 200, Subpart E, §200.430 (formerly known as Office of Management and Budget Circular A-21, "Cost Principles for Educational Institutions") requires faculty involved in sponsored activity to report activities for which they are compensated each academic term but no less often than every six months.
The UW satisfies this requirement by providing an after-the-fact certification that the charges made to sponsored projects represents a reasonable reflection of faculty effort. Faculty are also required to account for mandatory and committed cost shared effort that was placed on the proposal budget page or budget justification and any required K award or salary cap cost sharing.
Without timely certification of effort on sponsored projects, charges are considered unallowable and must be removed from the grant or contract. Uncertified salaries on sponsored projects are considered unallowable and must be removed from the grant or contract.
What are the Compliance Risks
Recent audits resulting in multi-million dollar settlements between the federal government and research institutions, coupled with policy changes at the national level, have resulted in an increased level of risk to institutions related to effort reporting.
Improper or inadequate certification of effort can result in the following restrictions imposed on the University by the federal government:
- Payback of award funds to sponsor
- The PI, in consultation with the Department Chair, will be responsible for any resulting deficits and/or unfunded costs.
- Withhold further Federal awards for the project or program
- Sponsors may elect to withhold funding for the project if deemed to be non-compliant
- Withholding of future awards
- Sponsors may elect to suspend grant awards to an institution and/or a PI who has not complied with the terms of the award and federal regulations. This includes effort reporting.
- Special monitoring by sponsor
- Limitations on independence and autonomy in relation to sponsored research activities (e.g.expanded authorities) may be imposed.
- Temporary withholding of payments
- The University will not be paid for the work done on the project if reporting is not completed in a timely manner. Some sponsors may require cost sharing to be completed for specific reporting periods before additional funding will be allocated.
- Disallow use of funds
- (that is, deny both use of funds and any applicable matching credit for) all or part of the cost of the activity or action not in compliance.
- Audit findings
- Potential financial repayment may be required resulting in loss of credibility with sponsors putting a negative national spotlight on the UW and the errors discovered.
- Requirement for corrective action plan
- Sponsor may require the institution to submit and follow a detailed corrective action plan.
- Designation as a "high risk" organization and loss of Expanded Authorities
- Result of designation as "high risk" results in loss of institutional reputation and credibility and possible loss of expanded authorities.
- Payment of punitive damages
- DHHSi can either suspend or debar individuals for commission of fraud or a criminal offense, lack of business integrity, willful failure to perform according to the terms of sponsored agreements and other serious violations.
- Wholly or partly suspend or terminate the Federal award
How the FEC Form Is Used
The FEC is used:
- In audit and compliance:
- Faculty Effort Certification reports are used in the audit process to ensure compliance with the level of effort agreed to in the award document, to confirm the salary charges were appropriate and/or to determine and document cost shared effort.
The FEC ensures compliance with the "Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards" (Uniform Guidance) Title 2 CFR Chapter II, Part 200, Subpart E, §200.430 requirement to confirm that the distribution of salaries "represents a reasonable estimate of the work performed by the employee during the period."
- FECs are reviewed by:
- Granting Agencies
- The University of Washington, Internal Audit
- State Agencies/Auditors on behalf of the Federal government
- Federal Government Agencies/Auditors
- To show salary information and amounts available as a cost share source.
- FECs provide departments with the salary for an FEC cycle by budget source for a given individual and specify the non-sponsored budget amounts potentially available for cost sharing.
- To certify faculty have performed the sponsored project work for which they are paid.
- Provides verification that the compensation charged is appropriate to the activity performed as required by federal regulations.
- To document the faculty effort cost sharing.
- Cost share certified on the FEC provides documentation that the commitments made to sponsors have been met. The cost share is included in the Facilities and Administrative (indirect cost) proposal for the University.
- To complete the final report to the sponsor prepared by Grant and Contract Accounting (GCA).
Note:The FEC report is considered a public record under the terms of the State of Washington's Public Disclosure Act.