Federally Sponsored Research:

Indirect Costs Charged by Selected Universities

T-RCED-92-20: Published: Jan 29, 1992. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 1992.

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GAO discussed: (1) excessive indirect research costs charged by three universities conducting federally sponsored research; and (2) the types of actions the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and other agencies have taken to deal with such problems. GAO noted that: (1) it identified numerous deficiencies in the cost allocation methods at the three universities; (2) it found problems that the university's external auditors or the cognizant audit agency had already reviewed but did not question; and (3) improper allocations of indirect costs occurred because OMB Circular A-21 criteria were inadequate, universities generally lacked adequate systems and internal controls to ensure that they only charged allowable indirect costs to the government, and cognizant federal agencies were lax in performing their oversight responsibilities. GAO also noted that, to address excessive indirect costs: (1) OMB issued a major revision to Circular A-21 limiting the types and amounts of allowable indirect costs; (2) cognizant federal agencies have increased their audit presence at universities; and (3) universities are modifying their accounting systems to better segregate allowable from unallowable costs, and have begun employee training programs on federal cost principles.

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