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Frequently Asked Questions

 
Q1.   Who do I call when I have a question?

ANSWER 1:

Your Departmental Administrator is your first point of contact for all financial and grant matters.  Staff within your department may be assigned different tasks but your Departmental Administrator will be able to refer you to the appropriate individual.  You may also have a college level grants manager that your Chair or Associate Dean can identify.  OGC staff are assigned to different college and departmental units.  Your Departmental Administrator would know who your primary OGC contact will be.  Upon establishment of an award in the Banner financial system, the PI and Departmental Administrator will also receive an Award Brief email which outlines administrative aspects of the award and notifies you of the OGC contact. If you are still not sure who to contact, you can call our office at 328-9530 for assistance.

 

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Q2.   How do I see/get access to my Banner account?

ANSWER 2:

Your Departmental Administrator can assist you with the Banner Financial Services access process.  Details of security access may vary by department or role.  All access to the Banner financial system is  through a Banner Security Request process located at ECU One Stop.  OGC strongly recommends that anyone working with grant funds request and use Internet Native Banner access; rather than Self Service Banner.  The INB reports and screens provide better functionality for reviewing grants management issues.  OGC also recommends accessing e-print reports (such as FRRGITD) which are designed for grants management purposes. 

 

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Q3.   What are the rules on spending my grant funds?

ANSWER 3:

In addition to University requirements, the rules on spending your grant funds are determined by the funding agency or sponsor organization. Your first source of information is the award document you received from the sponsor.  The award document will provide some specific information and usually will also refer you to published general guidelines/regulations.  The OGC Award Brief notification will also provide some information.

 

Most major sponsors will have policy guidelines/manuals or will have outlined requirements in their proposal solicitation documents.  See the Helpful Links tab for access to some of the sponsor guidelines. General federal guidelines can be reviewed by looking at OMB Circular A-21 and A-110.  Most federal agencies incorporate the same general requirements (such as A21 and A110) in their policy guidelines but also have agency-specific requirements. Major funding agencies such as NIH, NSF, DOED, NASA, etc. will have their grants policy manuals located on their website.

 

Foundations and corporations that award funds for sponsored projects may have very stringent or very lenient rules. Many of the major non-profits also have grants policy manuals or additional information on spending guidelines located on their website.   

 

Most State agencies will include their requirements in the initial proposal solicitation and in the award terms and conditions.  They will not normally have a policy manual.

 

You can call or meet with your OGC contact if you have questions on how you can spend your funds or interpret your award documents or if you have any other questions related to your award administration.

 

A general rule for any sponsored program is that you can spend it in accordance with the line items and budget approved by the sponsor.  Rebudgeting flexibilities and possible prior approval requirements for deviation from the awarded budget will vary by sponsor/award. 

 

All charges made to grant funds are processed just like any other University operating charges and normal hiring, purchasing, and travel regulations all apply. Sponsor restrictions are usually in addition to University requirements.  The most restrictive requirement will apply whenever there is a conflict between the sponsor policies and the University policies.

 

All accounting transactions originate in your home department. Your Departmental Administrator can provide assistance on forms to use and internal procedures. When processing requests, please be sure to inform your Departmental Administrator if an item is to be charged for your award; so that they will use the correct fund numbers for your transaction.

 

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Q4.   How do I make sure items are being charged to my grant appropriately?

ANSWER 4:

Make sure you check your grant Banner fund on a monthly basis. OGC strongly recommends review of e-print FRRGITD as well as the on-line screens.  Access to on-line information will vary by security access and depending upon access set-up and/or keying errors on program code or organization code, your on-line queries may not provide all details.  The FRRGITD report will provide complete cumulative information for all transactions.  For on-line queries, if you click on the expenditure transaction line you will get detail for each line that will tell you what has been charged to the account. If requested charges are not showing on the Banner account or if incorrect charges are appearing on your account, immediately contact your Departmental Administrator.  Your Departmental Administrator can track the status of transactions and initiate corrections.   

 

There are many on-line Banner screens and queries which can provide assistance in review of your award transactions.  Contact your Departmental Administrator if you need assistance or additional information on report capabilities.  

 

It is very important to process and track charges on a timely basis.  There are audit and system restrictions for making late charges.  You may not be able to book a cost to a sponsored project if not processed within the appropriate timing guidelines.  All costs should be directly charged to the award at the time they are incurred.  Costs should not be "parked" on one fund in anticipation of a transfer to another fund.   

 

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Q5.   What is Time and Effort and why do I have to do it?

ANSWER 5:

Time and effort reporting is required by sponsoring agencies and auditors to assure that Principal Investigators and anyone else working on a sponsored project (paid or cost share) are spending the appropriate time on the project as committed in the proposal or required by the award documents.  It is a process of retroactively reviewing your institutional activity and certifying how you spent your time.  Effort reporting must be completed on a timely basis and must be appropriate and accurate for the actual work performed by the individual certifying. Without verified time and effort reports, costs cannot be charged to the grant and PIs and Departments may be liable for any uncertified personnel costs incurred. Only effort shown in the time and effort reporting system (ERS) may be used to meet sponsor cost share or match requirements.

 

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Q6.   How do I do my Time and Effort report?

ANSWER 6:

Effort is reported four times a year.  ECU has a web based effort reporting system (ERS) and the submission process involves only a few short steps as forms are routed automatically.  In general -

 

(a)  After your personnel actions are processed to place individuals onto your sponsored program, the Payroll system feeds data to the ERS.

 

(b) This information is then sent to a departmental pre-reviewer, as an effort certification report (ECR) to determine if the information is correct or if changes areneeded in the distribution of effort and salary.  The PI and the pre-reviewer should review/discuss effort of all individuals working on the project to assure that effort is reported accurately. The employee certifying should review/discuss the effort reportwith the pre-reviewer to assure that effort is reported accurately.

 

(c) The pre-reviewer makes any necessary changes and the form is then available for the individual to complete the certification.

 

(d) The certifier should review and retroactively consider all of the institutional and professional effort commitments and activities to assure that the effort information is accurate.  The effort process is to reflect actual effort; not payroll.  If no changes are needed, the individual certifies the report and no further actions are needed.

 

(e) If additional changes are needed, the certifier should not certify the report but should discuss additional changes needed with the pre-reviewer.  The certifier should not complete (submit) the effort report if the information presented is incorrect.  After discussions with the pre-reviewer on adjustments needed, the certifier may make necessary adjustments in the system and the form is forwarded to a departmental post-reviewer who takes the necessary actions to submit the financial corrections through the effort and accounting system.

 

In many departments, the pre and post-reviewer may be the same person.  In larger departments, they may be different individuals.  There is a designated effort coordinator in every department.  Your Departmental Administrator will know who the effort coordinator, pre-reviewer and post-reviewer are for your department/grant.

 

See the effort reporting procedures and training materials on the OGC website for additional details. Contact ershelpdesk@ecu.edu if you have questions or need assistance.

 

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Q7.   What do I do if my Time and Effort isn't being pre-reviewed?

ANSWER 7:

Contact your Chair and let her/him know that pre-review is not occurring. Timely pre- review is a departmental responsibility.  If necessary, contact your Associate Dean for Research or OGC to report problems in your department's effort processing.

 

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Q8.   What if my budget isn't loaded correctly or I need to change it?

ANSWER 8:

Because of differences in accounting procedures, many budgets will look different in Banner than on the original sponsor documents.  Grant budgets, unlike State funds, do not always have to categorically match budget and expenditure.  If you do think there is an error in the Banner budget, email or call your OGC representative for assistance.  Only OGC can adjust budgets on sponsored funds.

 

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Q9.   How do I get a student hourly GA onto my grant?

ANSWER 9:

Talk to your Chair and Departmental Administrator and identify the students that you want to hire or the selection process you want to establish. All hiring forms and procedures are handled by your department. Your department will advise you on any necessary paperwork.  Your department will coordinate with HR, student services and the Graduate School, as needed.  There may be limits to the amount of hours some students can work and there are additional restrictions for GA's that have teaching responsibilities.  Some sponsors/awards may also have restrictions on student hires.

 

You should contact your Departmental Administrator as early as possible and before making any employment commitment for anyone.  Processing hire and payroll paperwork can be a prolonged process.  You should not start anyone working on your project (student, staff, post doc or faculty) until you have assured that the department has completed the hire/assignment/EPAF/payroll process and an appropriate start date has been processed in the system.

 

See the Graduate School and the Student Services websites for additional information.

 

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 Q10. How do I charge travel to my grant?

ANSWER 10:

Travel on sponsored projects is processed exactly the same way as for any University travel only you would use the grant fund number.  Contact your Departmental Administrator or Chair to verify your internal departmental procedures.  The following are general steps.  Procedures may vary by department.

 

First, make sure the travel is allowed by the grant.  Foreign travel, especially, may have to be pre-approved.

 

If the award is federal, be sure you only use US Flag Carriers for your transportation.  You may not be able to get costs reimbursed if a non-US Carrier is used.  Cost is not a consideration for use of US Carriers.  You must use the US Carrier except under very specific guidelines, regardless of cost savings.  Check with your OGC contact if you have questions about this requirement or any other travel restrictions for your award.  See the US Carrier requirements on the OGC training site.

 

You cannot charge first class rates to a sponsored project.  If first class rates are charged, the difference between coach and first class must be charged to a non-sponsored fund or the traveler.

 

You cannot charge costs of the travel to the grant fund if the travel is not completed prior to the grant budget end date.  Pre-paying costs, from the grant, for travel after the end date is not allowable.

 

You cannot charge costs of travel to the grant fund if the travel is for someone not directly working on the grant or performing activities directly related to the grant program.  Costs related to accompanying family members may not be charged to the grant fund.

 

You cannot charge entertainment costs, personal costs (such as souvenirs, video rentals, tours, etc.) or alcohol to the grant fund.

 

Most grant funds prohibit the payment of dues/membership fees even if associated with attendance at a conference.  Membership/dues fees are considered a personal expense and only the registration fee and other direct costs of the travel can be charged to the sponsored project.

 

As needed, get prior approval to travel from your Chair and Dean or other institutional office before incurring any costs.   International travel may require prior approval of the Provost or appropriate Vice Chancellor or Chancellor.  International travel may also be prohibited or require special prior approval from the sponsor.

 

The Travel Office website will have up-to-date information on mileage, per diems, policies, etc. and will have the Travel Reimbursement Form that you must use to get reimbursed.  Contact your Departmental Administrator if you need assistance in completing the form.  Some awards may have stricter rate restrictions and you may not be able to charge all of your costs to the sponsored project.

 

Keep all of your receipts while you travel. Whenever possible, use your unit's ProCard for plane tickets and registrations and remind your administrator and all travelers to charge the grant on a timely basis.  Late cost transfers or requests for reimbursement from the sponsored project may not be allowed; even if the cost would have been allowable if processed in a timely manner.

 

If using ground transportation, a state car should normally be requested.  Check the Travel Office website for appropriate use of a private car and mileage rate when a state vehicle is not requested or available.  You may not be able to be reimbursed for personal car usage if appropriate procedures are not followed.

 

Keep your boarding passes and used tickets for your flights; they must be included with your reimbursement form.

 

Get an itemized receipt from your hotel that shows as fully paid. Normally ProCards cannot be used for hotels or meals so you will have to pay this yourself and get reimbursed.

 

Upon returning, complete the travel form as soon as possible. The appropriate unit administrator(s) will need to approve and sign the form and it will be forwarded to the Travel Office for processing. Travel over 30 days old cannot be reimbursed without a written justification.  Travel reimbursement requests in excess of 60 days old may be denied by either the Travel Office or OGC.

 

Reimbursements will be issued by the Travel Office.

 

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Q11. How do I buy supplies and/or equipment on my grant?

ANSWER 11:

Purchases of supplies and equipment on sponsored projects is processed exactly the same way as for any University purchase only you would use the grant fund number.  Contact your Departmental Administrator to verify your internal departmental procedures.  Your DA will know which form and process to use for the items you wish to purchase.  Depending upon the nature and value of the item, the purchase can be made through vendor order, the ProCard or a purchase requisition.  Be sure to check your award terms and conditions first.  Many sponsored projects have restrictions on the nature and amount of supplies or equipment that can be purchased.

 

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Q12. What if my grant isn't being spent as quickly as I thought?

ANSWER 12:

Check your Banner transactional details to make sure that all items you thought had been processed or spent are actually appearing on your statements.  Some items may be in transit and haven't appeared yet but there may also be accounting errors and costs may have posted to the wrong fund.  It's especially important to verify and correct salary allocations on a frequent basis.

 

  • All transactions initiate in your department.  If you think there are items missing or if there are costs you think are incorrect, contact your Departmental Administrator who can check their status or correct accounting errors.  Errors must be corrected, as soon as possible, as there are time limitations for grant funds and some transactions may not be able to be processed if they are not submitted within appropriate time frames (maximum 90 days).

  • If all of your anticipated costs have posted and you are still under-spent, review your projections and needs for the remainder of the budget period.  It may be that larger expenditures are anticipated in a later period (e.g., summer salary or field work) and the budget will even out.  It may be that, due to the way the project has progressed, you will not need as much budget as originally anticipated or you may need to revise your budget based on new needs.

  • Do not incur expenditures just to spend down your budget.  This is unallowable and would result in an audit finding.  Expenditures should only be based on actual needs and be for the direct benefit and use of the project.  Some projects will not spend the originally anticipated budget and funds must be returned to the sponsor.  Depending on circumstances, the sponsor may allow use of the funds for additional or expanded program activity.

  • Contact OGC if you don't think your budget will be fully expended but you have a possible additional activity to propose to the sponsor for the funds remaining.

  • Contact OGC if you think you need to revise your budget.  Depending upon the nature and scope of the revision, OGC may be able to internally authorize the change or the revision may need specific sponsor approval.  OGC and OSP (Office of Sponsored Programs) will process the request if sponsor authorization is needed.

  • If your under-expenditure is caused by slow start-up or delays in the project activties, you may need to request a no-cost-extension.  Contact OSP if you think you need a no-cost-extension.  Contact OSP prior to making contact with your sponsor as ECU may be able to authorize the extension internally without sponsor approval.  OSP will be able to provide advice/assistance on the appropriate actions to take based on your situation and the sponsor guidelines.

 

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Q13. What if there is a major change of project personnel on my project?

ANSWER 13:

All sponsors require prior approval for a change of the PI.  Most sponsors require prior approval for change of the Co-PI or other designated key personnel.  Very few sponsors require prior approval for other personnel on a project.  Contact OSP or OGC for assistance in determining whether or not you need sponsor approval for your personnel changes.  OSP will process the request if sponsor authorization is needed.

 

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 Q14. What if there is a major change of the program or research on my grant?

ANSWER 14:

All sponsors require prior approval for the change in scope of a project.  First, speak with the sponsor's Program Officer if a major change in the activities or thrust of the research needs to occur.  Good communications with the sponsor's program staff is highly recommended at all times so that minor or major changes may be discussed and/or requested.

 

Contact OSP to discuss the change in project.  Normally a change in the scope of the project will need formal sponsor approval.  A verbal or email understanding with the Program Officer is usually not a legal authorization; it is just the first step.  OSP will be able to process the formal request and official sponsor approval.  Although most changes are approved, the sponsor has the right to deny a change in the scope of the agreement and may require return or reduction of the funds and/or the termination of the award.

 

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Q15. What do I do to extend my project period?

ANSWER 15:

Contact the Office of Sponsored Programs, as soon as possible and before the end date, if you think you may need a no-cost-extension.  Some sponsors give ECU the internal authority to approve extensions that are needed to complete the project so long as no additional funding is requested. However, other sponsors require that they give specific written authorization. Contact OSP as soon as you are aware of the possible need for an extension so that any required agency requirements and deadlines can be met.  Most agencies require that the extension be requested at least 30 days prior to the end date.  Some agencies require 60-90 days prior approval.  OSP cannot approve any extension that is requested after the end date and will need to request authorization from the sponsor.  Some sponsors will not approve any extension request received after the end date.

 

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Q16. How do I get my academic year salary paid from a grant and what

ANSWER 16:

For 9 month faculty, contact your Chair and Departmental Administrator for internal procedure details which may vary by Department/College.  In general the following steps are completed:

 

  • The Chair, the Dean and Academic Affairs approve the academic year buyout.

  • A payroll redistribution (EPAF/PCF) is processed so that salary is charged to the grant, rather than the departmental fund, for the designated period and amount.

  • The department submits the Grant and Contract Reassigned Form to the Budget Office so that lapsed salary dollars can be released for other use.

  • If is very important that buyout forms be completed and processed on a timely basis; either before the anticipated start date or within one pay period of the anticipated start date of the buyout.  Because of effort reporting and cost transfer timing and audit requirements, buyout amounts may not be charged to a grant if they are not processed on a timely basis.  Contact your Departmental Administrator, ahead of time, whenever a buyout is anticipated.  Starting the process early will help ensure that the grant fund can be charged.

  • If the buyout forms are completed properly, and on a timely basis, the salary release dollars can be returned to the department by the Budget Office for use at your Chairperson's discretion.  

  • Please also note that grants cannot be charged for overload payments.  Grants can only be charged for appropriate percentage buyouts of the base institutional salary.  Faculty cannot be paid at an overload rate on sponsored projects.

For 12-month faculty, contact your Chair and Departmental Administrator for internal procedures which may  vary by Department/College.  Charging academic year time for 12-month faculty is usually an easier mechanical process and may only involve the reassignment of funding sources for an appropriate percentage of effort.

 

All faculty paid on grants must have an appropriate grants Banner position number established.  University policy requires that separate position numbers be established based on funding source.  In addition to getting the appropriate approvals, the Departmental Administrator will need to submit a Position Change Form request for a position number and an appropriate EPAF to allocate salary/fringe to the grant fund.

 

Lapsed salary dollars are released to the Chair for appropriate use within budgetary and University guidelines.

 

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Q17. How do I get my summer salary paid from a grant(s)?

ANSWER 17:

For 9-month faculty, contact your Departmental Administrator or Chair for the details of your departmental internal procedures for summer pay.  Your department prepares the HR forms (EPAF/PCF) authorizing summer payroll charged to the grant.  It is extremely important that the summer salary forms be completed accurately and on a timely basis.

 

You should contact your Departmental Administrator, before the end of the academic year, to initiate the summer salary process.  We recommend that you start the process in March or early April in order to ensure that all paperwork is completed in time for the summer period. The process/forms can actually be completed well in advance of the start of the summer period (5/16).

 

Because of effort reporting and cost transfer timing and audit requirements, summer salary may not be charged to a grant if it's not processed on a timely basis.  OGC may not authorize late requests for summer salary.  Starting the process early will help ensure that the grant fund can be charged and that you can be paid summer salary.

 

Summer salary is subject to the effort certification requirements.  When working with your Departmental Administrator, be sure to carefully assess your level of effort over the summer period and establish the payroll forms to accurately reflect the actual anticipated effort.  If you are teaching summer classes, the amount you may charge to the sponsored project will be limited to time available outside of the teaching commitments.

 

It's common in proposal budgets to list 1 month at 100% or 2 months at 100% for budgetary purposes.  However, you cannot be paid 100% on the grant nor can effort be certified as 100% unless all of your work activity for the period is devoted solely to grant activities (no other teaching, academic or professional institutional activities).  In most cases, faculty will not be working 100% during a summer month solely on the grant activity.  Therefore, the summer salary will normally need to be spread at a lower percentage across a longer period.  For example:  Instead of 1 month at 100% the allocation might be 33% per month over the entire 3 month summer period; depending upon actual planned activity.

 

Summer salary can only be paid at the rate of actual effort in the period.  Summer salary is not a payment for activity during the academic year that was not charged to the grant.  You may not be able to be paid the full amount budgeted in the grant if your actual work activity on the grant or your salary rate is less than originally budgeted.  In most cases, the salary savings can be rebudgeted to other grant needs.  Contact OGC for questions about revising your budget if you will not be able to expend the summer salary budget.

 

Normally, Chairs and Deans can only be paid a maximum of 2 months summer salary against grant funds. Contact OGC for questions about summer salary for Chairs/Deans.

 

9-month faculty are limited to summer salary rates equivalent to 133% of their academic year base, institutional salary. 

 

12-month faculty do not earn additional summer pay.  Summer payroll is normally just adjusted/distributed between funds in accordance with planned activities for the period.

 

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Q18. What is Facilities and Administrative cost (also called indirect and F&A) and where does it go?

ANSWER 18:

F&A, also known as indirect or overhead charges are part of the budget of every grant or contract when allowed by the sponsor. The related rates of recovery are negotiated between East Carolina University and the federal government and are used to support the administrative and infrastructure costs of the sponsored project. F&A may provide payments for buildings, utilities, staffing, equipment, match funds, start-up funds, bridge funding and other costs that support the research mission and the faculty activities.

 

F&A are real costs to the University and each investigator should do their utmost to assure that F&A is requested on all proposal budgets.  Although the rates are negotiated with the federal government they are applied to all sponsored projects.  The full F&A rates should be used for all proposals unless the specific sponsor has a published policy of a lower rate that is applied to all proposers.  The current rates are located on the OGC Policies and Procedures website tab and on the OSP website.

 

70% of the earned F&A is retained at the institutional level for the types of costs described above.  10% of the earned F&A is returned to the College to further support their efforts for research activities and the research infrastructure.  10% of the earned F&A is returned to the Chair/Department to support the departmental research and research support activites. 10% of the earned F&A is returned to the PI to support the PI's research activities.

 

For additional detail on the use of the F&A distributions, contact your Dean/Chair for information on internal procedures which may vary by College/Department.

 

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