Overview

Federal regulations require recipients to obtain prior written approval from the federal sponsor for many possible actions. Most, but not all, of these prior approval requirements can be found in 2 CFR 200.407 Prior written approvalReview the applicable regulations to ensure that any prior approval requirements are met. PAFC has compiled a matrix of this list of federal requirements.

In accordance with the hierarchy of federal regulations, individual federal agencies have the authority to waive the prior approval requirement. This waiver may be found in, as applicable, the Award itself, the Program Announcement, the Research Terms and Conditions, and/or the Federal Sponsor’s terms and conditions. This waiver does not lessen the recipient's (UW’s) responsibility to ensure that the action taken is appropriate and supported. In essence, the federal sponsor is delegating responsibility to the recipient to approve the action.

At the UW, this responsibility flows from central administration, to the Dean/Director, and ultimately to the Principal Investigator (PI). If the PI approves one of these actions on a Federal Award, the PI must maintain documentation to demonstrate that the action is necessary in order to achieve the Award objectives. This documentation should serve to justify the action the same as if approval were being sought from the Federal sponsor.

Examples

  • Federal regulations require that written sponsor approval be obtained for a no-cost extension on an Award (to extend the end date without additional funding). The Federal agency, in its written regulations, waives that prior approval requirement, but does require that the agency be notified of no-cost extensions. The PI makes the determination that a no-cost extension is needed in order to achieve the Award objectives. The PI documents the rationale for the no-cost extension and complies with the agency’s requirement to be notified of the new Award end date by processing the notification through OSP.
  • Six months into a three-year NIH award, the PI directs a member of the fiscal staff to charge the award for 10% of their time. The proposal budget did not include direct billing of administrative or clerical staff salaries (typically an indirect or F&A cost). The funds to cover this expense will come from savings on the travel line item (a planned trip was canceled). The regulations require prior approval to both direct bill F&A costs and for rebudgeting, but NIH, in its regulations, has waived the prior approval requirement for both. The PI should provide supporting documentation for:
    • How the F&A cost is integral to achieving the project objectives; and
    • How the objectives of the Award were not changed by rebudgeting.