Balances of Research Project Accounts at Project End Policy

Application

This policy applies to all University academic staff members who are involved in research and consulting activities.

Purpose

To provide direction and guidance for the distribution of balances of research and consulting project accounts at project end date and is applicable to both externally and internally funded research contracts and grants that have reached their award/contract expiry date.

Policy

1. Projects expire on the end date specified in the award notice for internal funds and on the end date specified in the contract for external funds.

2. All transactions and commitments must be finalised promptly at expiry date. Unless the funder guidelines explicitly state otherwise, for accounting purposes a research project can remain open for up to 3 months after the award/contract expiry date so that commitments made up to the expiry date can be processed.

3. Balances remaining in externally funded research projects after all commitments have been processed will be treated in accordance with the Funders’ requirements as specified in the funding contract/agreement where applicable or otherwise as specified in this policy.

Underspent (credit) Balances

Externally Funded Project

4. Where an externally funded project has an Underspend (credit) balance of less than $100 at closure, the balance will automatically be written up to a generic University account, if the underspend is not required to be returned to Funder.

Note – Clause 4 does not apply to underspends on consultancies undertaken under the Outside Activities Undertaken by Academic Staff Policy and Procedures (i.e., scenarios C3 and C4 in the Research and Consulting Incentives Policy).

5. Where an externally funded project has an Underspend (credit) balance of more than $100 at closure and is not required to be returned to the Funder, the balance will be transferred in accordance with the Research and Consulting Incentives policy. The amount, if more than $100, will be transferred to the project’s named Principal Investigator.

6. Where an externally funded project has an Underspend (credit) balance of more than $10,000 and is not required to be returned to the Funder, the first $10,000 and 80% of any amount above $10,000 will be transferred in accordance with clause 5). The remaining 20% of the underspend above $10,000 will be transferred to the relevant faculty administration account for discretionary use by the dean of the relevant faculty or director of the relevant Large-Scale Research Institute (LSRI) to support research in the faculty/LSRI. 

7. Where an externally funded project has an Underspend (credit) balance at closure and is required to be returned to the Funder the balance will be transferred in accordance with conditions specified in the funding contract/agreement. The amount, if any, will be returned to the Funder.

8. Where an externally funded project has an Underspend (credit) balance at closure and the contractual terms require funds to be spent on an agreed program of work, these funds are not required to be returned to the Funder provided the use of these funds continue to meet the contractual requirements. In these circumstances the balance may be utilised via internal extension.

Internally Funded Project

9. Where an internally funded project has an Underspend (credit) balance at closure the balance will be returned to the source of internal funding.

Overspent (Debit) Balances

Externally and Internally Funded Projects

10. It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to minimise overspends by ensuring that only expenditure permitted by the Funder approved project budget is charged to the project.

11. Where an externally funded project has an Overspend (debit) balance of less than $100 at closure, the balance will automatically be written off to a generic University account.

12. Where an internally funded project has an Overspend (debit) balance of less than $100 at closure, the balance will be written off to the source of internal funding.

13. Where an externally or internally funded project has an Overspend (debit) balance of more than $100 at closure the balance will be recovered from the Research Development Account (RDA) of the named Principal Investigator on the project.

14. In the event that the relevant Principal Investigator has an insufficient balance in their RDA at project closure and there is sufficient R2 incentive income forecasted to the RDA, the RDA will be allowed to go into temporary deficit up to $5,000. More than $5,000 will require Academic Head approval. In limited cases, Academic Head approval may be provided where there is insufficient R2 incentive income forecasted provided there is a reasonable likelihood of the incentive income being generated within 12 – 18 months from new research and consulting projects.

15. Any residual overspend amount that cannot be recovered from the RDA will be recovered from the PI’s home department.

Notification to Academic Head

16. It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to provide early notification to their Academic Head of any underspends or overspends that are forecast to exceed $10,000. This early notification provides opportunity for the Academic Head and Principal Investigator to discuss the reasons for the material overspend or underspend, and any corrective action that may be required. Corrective action could include a review of the work programme or reallocation of costs (where permitted under the Funder agreement). Faculties can also have regard to prior overspends when setting eligibility criteria for the Research Development Fund.

Definitions

The following definitions apply to this document:

Consulting is the utilisation or manipulation of existing knowledge to provide expert advice. The answer to the question may be known or able to be deduced, calculated or otherwise determined from the current state of knowledge.

Funder refers to the body, person or organisation providing the financial backing in order to undertake the research project. This includes those groups referred to as ‘Clients’ and can be internal or external groups.

Internally Funded refers to Funds derived from University internal sources, including the Research Development Fund, to support research activities. Internally funded does not include funds sourced from the University of Auckland Foundation or School of Medicine Foundation – these are classified as external funds for the purposes of policy interpretation.

Research is original, independent investigation undertaken to contribute to knowledge and understanding and, in the case of some disciplines, cultural innovation or aesthetic refinement. Research typically involves inquiry of an experimental or critical nature driven by hypotheses or intellectual positions capable of rigorous assessment by experts in a given discipline.

R2 incentive income means the 30% proportion of Principal Investigator time charged to a research project that is eligible to be paid into a Research Development Account in scenario R2 of the Research and Consulting Incentives Policy.

Staff member refers to an individual employed by the University on a full or part time basis.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

Key relevant documents

Document management and control

Owner: Deputy Vice Chancellor Research
Content manager: Director of Office of Research Strategy and Integrity
Approved by: Vice Chancellor
Date approved: 1 September 2022
Review date: 31 July 2024