Externally Funded Research Acceptable Expenditure Guidelines


Application


These guidelines apply to all staff and students at the University managing or undertaking externally funded research projects.

Purpose


These guidelines support the Research Guide for Academic Staff by giving practical advice, examples and support to principal investigators and finance managers who are involved in requisitioning, approving, and monitoring direct research project expenditure. 

Content


  • Budget categories
  • Non-staff  direct  cost  purchases
  • Unacceptable project expenditure – examples
  • Related projects
  • Staff salaries and leave
  • Tests for acceptable expenditure

Guidelines


Budget categories

Direct costs must closely follow the budgeted line items or categories established in the contract or agreement with the funder. For instance, funds budgeted for subcontracts or student stipends should be used for such purposes. If this is not possible a contract variation is to be sought from the funder (through the Research Office).

Non-staff direct cost purchases  

All direct research project expenditure must be intended to support the achievement of the contracted or agreed objectives or deliverables of the project and not for anything else.
All items purchased using research accounts remain the property of the University, including books or research equipment specified in the contract budget.

Unacceptable project expenditure – examples

Expenditure that must not be charged to research projects would typically be covered instead by a unit’s operational budgets or by personal expenditure.


Examples of such unacceptable expenditure could include:

  • staff morning teas
  • staff gifts
  • parking offence fees
  • membership fees/subscriptions
  • attendance at conferences unless directly related to the research project e.g. presenting results or to learn a technique

NOTE: It is possible that some gifts or koha to third parties may be appropriate project expenditure if they are directed to achieving the objectives or deliverables of the project.

Related projects

Direct costs must be charged to the actual project they relate to and not to other projects even if they are from the same funder and are for related research. Funds must not be transferred (journaled) between project accounts unless it is to correct errors in the original charging.

Staff salaries and leave

Salaries paid to all University staff working directly on a research project for whom a portion of their time is being paid for from the project budget must be coded to the research project account and the balance to the home department commensurate with the actual time commitment to each.

For example, a PI may have 0.2 FTE budgeted to their externally funded research project and 0.8 FTE committed to their home department/school/LSRI. This information including the start and end date for the research project must be advised to Human Resources. HR will ensure that the actual salary costs (in this example 0.2 FTE) are charged to the project for the duration of the project.

NOTE: Salary on-costs such as annual and sick leave is to be charged to the research project account and the home department in the same proportion as the salary.

Special leave such as parental, study, and long term sick leave cannot be charged to the research project account as they are not imperative to achieving the contracted project objectives or deliverables, nor are they supported by funders. Therefore they must be covered by the department/school/faculty.

In some circumstances a suspension of the research project contract for the term of parental leave may be approved – the Research Office can provide more information.

Staff who have indirect functional research management roles such as faculty/LSRI administrators or finance staff, or research office staff are not direct costs and are not to be included.

Tests for acceptable expenditure

External funding for research projects is not the same as internal university operational funding. Apart from any overhead components, research project funds must be used to cover the direct costs of the research project (award or contract) in compliance with the funder’s and the University’s rules, policies, procedures, and guidelines.

While it is not possible to define all acceptable expenditure, there are two tests that will help with determining what can or cannot be charged to an externally funded research project account.

These are:

  1. Is  the  cost  essential  to  achieving  the  contracted  or  agreed  objectives  or deliverables of the project?
  2. Assuming the cost was not itemised in the application or award budget, if it had been would it have complied with the funder’s requirements or would it have been declined/ excluded?

Definitions


The following definitions apply to these guidelines:

FTE means full time equivalent working hours

Koha is a discretionary gift, token, or a contribution which is distinct from expenditure for services supplied

Principal investigator is the named researcher responsible for carrying out the research and delivering the outputs relating to a funded research project

Staff includes all people employed by the University whether permanent, temporary or part time

University means the University of Auckland including all subsidiaries

Key relevant documents


Include the following:

Document management and control


Owner: Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Content manager: Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Approved by: Vice-Chancellor

Date approved: 26 August 2014

Review date: 26 August 2016