News From the National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General

 

March 2005 - NSF OIG Newsletter

 

The Office of Inspector General will issue this newsletter periodically to report the results of recent audits, investigations, and other work related to NSF's programs. Our intent is to help members of the research community become more aware of the types of problems that may be found during an audit or investigation, as well as measures that may be taken to prevent them.

 

 

In This Issue

 

 

 

 


:: NSF Not Receiving All Required Project Reports::

The National Science Foundation requires most principal investigators (PIs) to submit final and annual reports on the progress of their research projects. These required reports provide NSF with important information on the progress of the research and also help to enhance accountability for these federal funds. However, an OIG audit found that approximately 47 percent of the 151,000 final and annual project reports required in the past 5 years were submitted late or not at all. Fifty-three percent of approximately 43,000 final project reports were submitted on average 5 months late, and 8 percent of final project reports were never submitted. Of 108,000 annual project reports required, 42 percent were never submitted. Furthermore, although NSF has a policy that prohibits PIs who have not submitted final project reports in the past from receiving new awards, the auditors found that there were 74 instances out of 571 over the past 5 years in which delinquent PIs received such funding.
Audit of Project Reporting for NSF Awards (report)

 

 

:: Conditions for International Grant Omitted from Agreements ::
An audit of awards made by NSF and 3 other agencies to establish an endowment fund for the United States-Mexico Foundation for Science (USMFS) found that conditions for the funding stipulated by Congress were not included in the grant agreements. Public Law 106-74 appropriated money for the endowment fund provided that Mexico match the U.S. funds, USMFS follow U.S. federal grant requirements, and the organization change its name. Because each of the agencies did not include one or more of these statutory requirements in their grant agreements, the USMFS did not obtain $5 million of matching contributions, nor did it implement the other legislative provisions. As a result of the shortfall, USMFS earned less income on the endowment fund for the financial support of its projects. In addition, because U.S. grant requirements were not implemented, the USMFS did not establish adequate internal controls to ensure that U.S. funds were properly accounted for and administered.
Audit of United States - Mexico Foundation for Science (report)

 

 

:: New NSF Division Still Under Development ::
A survey of the new Large Facility Projects Office (LFP) concluded that despite having made some progress in developing policy guidelines, the office has not yet implemented its intended oversight responsibilities because NSF has not established a management framework that adequately recognizes and supports it in that role. NSF’s current guidelines describe the role of the LFP Office as primarily advisory and collaborative, and have not vested the LFP Office with either the authority or resources to carry out effective oversight of the construction of large facilities. NSF needs to demonstrate its commitment to large facility project management by recognizing and formalizing the oversight mission of the LFP Office. Additionally, NSF can further the organizational authority needed by the LFP Office to be successful by providing it with a high level champion – possibly NSF’s Director.
Survey of Large Facility Projects Management and Oversight (report)

 

:: School District Agrees to Settlement, Compliance Plan ::
An OIG audit of an NSF award to a large city school district identified a number of significant issues, including the district’s inability and/or unwillingness to provide adequate documentation to support the $13.8 million in costs claimed and $21 million in claimed cost sharing. The audit also identified a lack of internal controls and non- compliance with Federal requirements. Because of the scope of the problems and the lack of cooperation it received, the Office of Audits referred the matter to the Office of Investigations. OIG subpoenaed the relevant records from the district, which then cooperated fully with the investigation. However, the district still could not provide sufficient source documentation to resolve the issues that had been raised.

After consulting with the United States Attorney’s Office and NSF management, OIG determined that in addition to a settlement agreement, a compliance plan would be needed to ensure future compliance with Federal requirements and to safeguard current and future funds awarded to the district. The settlement resulted in the reduction of the district’s current award by a total of $150,000. The compliance plan requires the district to form a compliance committee to oversee the implementation of procedures outlined in the agreement, and to report annually for five years to OIG.

 

 

 

To report a possible instance of fraud, waste, or abuse pertaining to NSF programs or awards, please call our hotline at 1-800-428-2189 or contact us at oig@nsf.gov. For more information about OIG activities, visit our website: http://www.nsf.gov/oig


Comments about the newsletter should be submitted to nsf_oig_newsletter@nsf.gov