News From the National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General

 

www.nsf.gov/oig

 

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

 

 

 

 


:: FAMU Settles Investigation into Use of Grant Funds ::

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), entered into Settlement and Compliance Agreements with the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to pay approximately $1.4 million in unaccounted for grant funds to the Federal Government, and develop internal systems to detect and prevent criminal behavior. The investigation centered on a 1997 cooperative agreement between NSF and FAMU for the purpose of developing infrastructure and fostering interdisciplinary cooperation to enhance minority education. NSF provided $5.3 million in funding while FAMU was required to share $2.5 million in costs to support the project over a 5-year period.

When OIG received an allegation that FAMU was not properly managing its award and had committed potentially illegal acts, an investigation was initiated. OIG coordinated its investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s office. FAMU, NSF and OIG executed Settlement and Compliance Agreements in June 2005. The Compliance Agreement is consistent with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Institutions which recently formed the basis for guidance issued by the Council on Government Relations in Managing Externally Funded Research Programs: A Guide to Effective Management Practices.

 

 

:: Audit of AGU Questions $198,546 ::
An audit of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) found that AGU claimed $198,546 of unallowable costs on its NSF awards, including $149,441 in rent costs paid to a related party with whom it had an agency relationship. In addition, AGU erroneously claimed $27,734 on eight awards because it spent budgeted participant support funds on other cost categories without prior written approval, a violation of NSF’s Grant General Conditions.

Significant internal control weaknesses were also identified. AGU did not adequately segregate duties performing both personnel and accounting functions in one department, a weakness that could result in undetected error or fraud. Also, in violation of Federal requirements AGU did not adequately monitor the $1.5 million it claimed on 50 subawards made to entities in less developed regions of the world. AGU disagrees with many of the audit findings, which will be resolved by NSF.  In fiscal years 2002 and 2003, the MSP program awarded a total of $436.6 million for 35 comprehensive and targeted MSP awards that will extend over a five-year period, and it expects to fund an additional $91 million for 12 new projects in FY 2004.

 

 

:: Company Pays $155,500 to Resolve Case Involving Duplicate Research ::
A company that received SBIR awards from several agencies to produce the same research paid the government $155,500 to settle the case. In response to an anonymous letter claiming that a company received overlapping research awards from multiple agencies, NSF OIG led an investigation that included agents from DoD, DoE, NASA, and DCAA. The investigation determined that the company had submitted the same research results to multiple agencies. The most flagrant incident involved an SBIR report submitted to NSF in 2002 that contained the same research that had been submitted in an SBIR report to DoD in 2001. We also found smaller amounts of overlap in other reports.

Our findings were referred to the Civil Division at U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. In June 2005, the company signed a Release and Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, agreeing to pay $155,500 to resolve this matter. As part of the agreement, the company also implemented written procedures to ensure that any overlapping research is fully disclosed to the agencies that are funding it.

 

 

 

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: www.nsf.gov/oig


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