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This page addresses financial reporting, progress reports, financial monitoring, and site visits of an externally sponsored research project.
Many funding agencies require ongoing reporting and monitoring to ensure that project expenditures and activities continue to meet their requirements. The Principal Investigator works with Research Services and Research Accounting to report to the funding agencies on how the funds have been used. It is a good practice to review reporting requirements ahead of applying for a funding opportunity and make sure all necessary resources are in place for financial and scientific reporting before the project starts.
Principal investigators coordinate all audits of sponsored grants and contracts through Research Services. If an auditor contacts you directly, please refer them to the Director of Research Services.
Representatives of the sponsor will conduct periodic reviews in order to:
- Assess the effectiveness of policies, systems and internal controls within the University
- Confirm that the university fulfills its research grant funds management responsibilities
- Ascertain the level of confidence that research funds are used in accordance with sponsor requirements
- Share and disseminate information on guidelines and expectations for the continuous improvement of research fund management
Roles and responsibilities
- Can request an audit on the fund anytime during the lifecycle of an award
- Requests a list of expenses incurred during the period being audited
- Picks a sample selection from the list to audit
- Liaises with the PI, the department and other central units to collect all supporting documents for the sample selection
- Coordinates with and provides auditor with supporting documentation
Best practices for surviving audits
- Exercise due prudence when making a purchase.
- Conduct transactions at arm's length; did the buyers and sellers of a product act independently and in the interests of their institutions?
- All costs incurred must benefit the project directly and be necessary for the completion of the project.
- All costs incurred must be consistent with policies, regulations, and the terms of the contract.
- Document the business purpose of each transaction adequately.
- When questions arise about a particular cost/transaction, department administrators must communicate with principal investigators to determine and record a detailed justification.
- Whenever questions arise please work with Research Services to understand the specific terms and conditions of your project
- Research Accounting and Research Services are responsible for collecting information and pulling records for the auditors.
- Answer questions honestly, directly, and succinctly.
- Refrain from providing unrequested information.
- Do not tamper with or manufacture records. If you have no records, say so. Fabricating and/or altering records is fraud.
- Be alert. Auditors may not know the regulations applicable to your project as well as you do.
- Be courteous, cooperative, and professional when dealing with the auditors.
Most sponsored awards require progress reports and final reports on the financial and technical aspects of your award. Sometimes, financial reporting is embedded within progress reports. These requirements are usually outlined in the Notice of Award (NOA) and/or research agreements.
Reporting requirements vary in frequency, format, and content depending on the sponsor rules and agreement specific requirements. Principal Investigators (PIs) should take responsibility for understanding the reporting requirements of a particular sponsor.
- Possible reporting periods include interim, annual, semi-annual, quarterly, and every 18-months. Monthly reporting requirements are rare and should be avoided if and when possible.
- Deadline to submit financial reports could be anywhere between 15 to 90 days within the fiscal year-end or reporting period end, depending on agency requirements.
- Federal Government agencies (e.g., Tri-Agency) fiscal year-end is March 31.
- Some agencies require supporting evidences to be submitted along with financial reports.
Failure to fulfill reporting requirements may result in:
- Delay or termination of current awards
- Delay or cancellation of future installments
- Simon Fraser University may have to repay the sponsor, up to a full refund
- Simon Fraser University may not get paid
- Simon Fraser University may be debarred from future awards
Financial Status Reporting
Research Accounting is responsible for preparing and submitting financial reports to the sponsor, according to the terms of an award. PI may review and sign the financial reports to ensure that costs are eligible and accurately reported.
For other considerations such as matching funds and in-kind contributions, please contact Research Accounting.
Records of Research Expenditures
The university and/or PI must maintain clear, complete and accurate records of receipts and expenditures for the funded research project, including verifiable audit trails with complete supporting evidences for each transaction, for at least seven years. Please check sponsor guidelines for detailed information regarding record keeping of research expenditures.
PI must provide supporting evidences for all expenditures charged to the research account. When the link to the sponsored research is not evident, appropriate justification is required in order to demonstrate that the expenditure is a direct cost of the research.
PI is responsible for submitting interim and final progress reports to the sponsor within the specified timeframe and format indicated by the sponsor. If no format is indicated, the PI is advised to use a standard format that addresses the following program management concerns:
- A review of accomplishments to-date as compared with schedule and objectives as outlined in the original proposal or as modified when the contract was awarded or amended.
- A review of challenges faced by the project in attempting to meet the schedule and objectives laid out in the original proposal or the most recent modification.
- Supporting statistical data or documentation on overall project health.
- Administrative activities, such as documentation or materials produced, personnel issues, etc.
A sponsor may request a site visit throughout the life cycle of a sponsored research project to
- Review the Principal Investigator and the university prior to the award to ensure the right fit for the proposed project
- Review programmatic progress during the life of the project
- Audit financial activities during or after the project
Research Services is the official contact for external sponsors for financial and review matters. The involvement of Research Services in external visits or audits protects you and your department from possible liabilities.
If you receive a notice for a site visit, please contact Research Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) immediately.