2013 NCURA 14th Annual FRA Conference

The 2013 National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) Fourteenth Annual Financial Research Administration (FRA) Conference was held on March 10-12 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Carol Gelormine (Manager of Grant Accounting) and Grace Macan (Grant Accountant) attended.

With over 1,100 attendees, the Conference presented a great opportunity to meet and network with colleagues across the country from Hawaii to Maine.  There were even a few representatives from International Universities in attendance.

The workshops and presentations at the conference covered a wide array of topics from post award basics and financial policies through service centers and NSF’s Office of Inspector General’s hot topics.  At many of the sessions, questions were encouraged and attendees were drawn upon to provide their perspective on many of the issues being raised.  With all this knowledge sharing, it was clear that all the attendees were interested in learning what best practices were being implemented at other Universities.

Some common themes emerged during the conference including ensuring that your institution:

·         Has the appropriate policy and procedures in place and they are followed consistently to ensure that the internal controls are adequate and functioning properly.

·         Understands the terms and conditions of an award.  If found non-compliant, a University or individual could face government wide suspension and debarment or even criminal action depending on the severity of the issue.

·         Has appropriate documentation to support all expenses and cost sharing, including written documentation of all necessary sponsor approvals.  Verbal approvals are not sufficient.  For cost sharing, consider maintaining all expenses in a separate account within your accounting system.

·         Has an appropriate Effort Reporting system in place.  The level of effort being reported needs to be accurate and true

·         With Service Centers, ensure the internal rate not include any costs already included in the indirect cost rate negotiated with the cognizant agency.

·         Has the appropriate personnel training.  New policies and procedures are being consistently issued by sponsors.  Adequate training helps ensure compliance with those requirements.

Overall, the Conference was a great opportunity to learn from our colleagues and open dialogue on issues facing all Universities.