Grant Management

Benefits and Burdens of Increasing NSF Financial Reporting Requirements Gao ID: RCED-92-201BR July 13, 1992

The National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency established more than 40 years ago to bolster scientific progress in the United States, funded more than 25,000 active research grants in 1992, mainly at universities. Because of congressional concerns about NSF's ability to effectively manage its growing volume of grants--NSF relies heavily on grantee institutions to ensure that funds are spent in accordance with federal guidelines--this fact sheet provides information on NSF's financial reporting requirements. GAO discusses (1) NSF financial reporting requirements, (2) the extent to which NSF grant funds have been shifted between budget categories and whether large individual budget shifts were used appropriately under current NSF guidelines, and (3) the views of NSF and university officials on increased financial reporting requirements.

GAO found that NSF: (1) complies with federal guidelines for financial reporting; (2) relies on federal cost principles and federal audit requirements for funding oversight; (3) delegates authority to grantees to rebudget funds between budget categories; (4) often shifts small amounts of funds between budget categories; (5) program officials believe that shifts are allowable because grantees appropriately use funds and research results are satisfactory; (6) program officials believe increased financial reporting to be burdensome for both NSF and its grantees; and (7) believes that increased reporting of financial data does not significantly improve grant administration.

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