Improvements Needed in Federal Oversight of NSF Grants
T-RCED-91-92: Published: Sep 24, 1991. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 1991.
GAO discussed grant administration at the National Science Foundation (NSF), focusing on the federal oversight process for the NSF grant program at three institutions. GAO noted that: (1) NSF has given grant recipients almost total responsibility for ensuring that funds are used in accordance with applicable federal requirements, but the effectiveness of controls over the use of grant funds varies by university; (2) although the three universities established controls over expenditures charged to NSF grants, there were instances of federal fund misuse that the institutions failed to prevent or detect; (3) other investigations identified instances of NSF fund misuse at universities that resulted in larger problems that may have gone undetected if allegations of misuse had not been reported and investigated; (4) although NSF primarily relies on required independent audits to ensure that larger institutions protect the government's interest, it has not received many of those audits because federal guidelines do not explicitly require institutions to perform or submit acceptable audits to NSF; and (5) NSF lacks a mechanism to ensure that grantees inform it of misconduct involving grant funds.