Financial Management

PIs are ultimately responsible for the financial management of their grants, however support is provided by any project administration staff, the RSO Post-Award team, departmental staff, and faculty finance teams.

  • Expenditure and Budget Monitoring

    Expenditure monitoring can be undertaken by the PI at any time by using the online Tableau report of Agresso transactions. This should be done on a regular basis to ensure that expenditure on the grant is correct and in line with the budget.

    RSO PA conducts 6 or 12 monthly project reviews (depending on the grant) and monitors actual and expected expenditure on research grants. Should an over or underspend be identified RSO PA will contact the PI and make suitable arrangements to rectify.

    If the project has a dedicated administrator, these reviews are their responsibility. Project Administrators can request payroll recalculations from RSO PA; following review findings and mitigating actions should be reported to both the PI and RSO PA.

    RSO PA conducts a short review of expenditure against budget each time funds for new or amended staff contracts are approved and during invoice or claim preparations.

    It should be noted that most funders are not supportive of large amounts of expenditure at the end of a grant, where this is not indicated in the proposal. This is particularly true for equipment, which should be purchased prior to the final 6 months of the grant, or a justification should be agreed with the funder where this is not possible.

  • Amending Budgets

    It may be necessary to update the grant budget during its lifetime to reallocate under/overspends across budget headings within the overall budget; the movement between budget headings is called a virement.

    Changes may be suggested by the PI, RSO PA or a Project Administrator; however all parties must be involved in approval of such a change. It is the responsibility of RSO PA (or the Project Administrator) to check that virements are allowed within the grant agreement and that the suggested change does not involve any ring-fenced funding. It is the responsibility of the PI to approve all budget changes in line with this advice.

  • Income - Invoicing and Funder Claims

    RSO PA is responsible for initiating all invoicing and claims by the due date in accordance with the funder’s terms and conditions. This is done in liaison with the PI to ensure eligibility of expenditure and full use of the available funds.

    If the project has an administrator, it is their responsibility to assemble claims to funders; these must sent to RSO PA for checking before submission. For European Commission funded projects RSO PA will be the Financial Signatory on the EC Portal. Project Administrators should always use the templates provided by RSO PA and send for checking with the relevant documentation completed in plenty of time.

    RCUK grants do not need regular invoicing or funder claims; income is prorated by the funders and paid quarterly to the university. RSO PA assign these payments to the correct grant code and also prepares the Final Expenditure Statement (FES) at the end of the grant in liaison with the PI.

  • Travel and Expenses

    PIs are responsible for arranging their own travel and accommodation and submitting their own expenses. Guidance and support is available via Travel Services or Financial Accounting for expenses. Online portals are available for booking travel and for expense claims. Although departmental, research teams or project administrative staff may be able to advise and offer guidance, the university has brought in online systems to allow PIs to do this themselves.

    Unfortunately, RSO cannot offer assistance in this area.

  • Procurement, including Equipment

    Purchasing equipment and consumables, or organising events, conferences and complicated trips as part of your research grant is the responsibility of the PI but can be delegated to member of your research team or a Project Administrator. Procurement will offer guidance and has an online portal for purchases. Complicated travel arrangements are supported by Travel Services.

    In most cases, your funder will expect grant expenditure to have been procured following the university's procurement regulations. Failure to do so may result in your expenditure becoming ineligible, in which case your department will have to cover the total cost. If you have any queries about how to comply with the procurement process, please contact the procurement team.

     

    Equipment

    High value equipment items should be identified on your project proposal. RSO PA will inform Procurement on all research projects with equipment items over £25,000 as these items require a formal tender as part of the procurement process. Please note that this limit refers to the total price of all related purchases that render the equipment useable, for example all parts and installation costs (but not on-going maintenance).

    These equipment costs will be automatically depreciated using the university’s standard 5-year policy; if it will become obsolete before 5 years (e.g. high-spec computer) please inform RSO PA on purchase.

    Purchase orders: PIs and departments are required to ensure that the purchase order for these high value items includes reference that it should be charged within the grant project code to account code 4038 (either within the description or in the ‘account’ box on advanced requests).

    University match funding: If there is university match funding for the equipment costs, on grant set-up an additional code (LEA1***) will be created for the university’s portion. RSO Post-Award will inform the PI of this code and it should be included (with the  amount of funding to be charged to each code) on the purchase order. There is a facility to do this on an advanced request or you can write this in the description in the procurement portal. Where the equipment costs less than the proposal, the full amount of the grant funding should be utilised and the amount of university funding should be reduced, unless a percentage split was agreed with the funder.

    It should be noted that most funders are not supportive of large amounts of expenditure at the end of a grant, where this is not indicated in the proposal. This is particularly true for equipment, which should be purchased prior to the final 6 months of the grant, or a justification should be agreed with the funder where this is not possible.

     

    RCUK Changes to Equipment T&Cs (March 2018)

    RCUK has decided to remove the link to OJEU Thresholds for Equipment as of 12th March 2018, with any future changes in threshold limits being decided by RCUK. This means that the fEC Grants full Terms & Conditions RGC 11.5 “Equipment Data” will be as follows:

    In line with the recommendation made in the “Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money” report, all new equipment purchased over £138,000 (£115,000 ex VAT) using public funding sources should be registered on the national database to be discoverable and enable greater sharing.

    This resets the condition to the threshold limit in place before the January 2018 T&C update, as the decision was taken to break the link with the Government threshold changes. There is no change to the application process via Je-S etc.

  • Maintaining Accuracy

    It is important that financial management of research grants be completed with the highest levels of accuracy. In order to ensure this the RSO PA team have a series of internal checks by peers, Team Leaders and Managers depending on the action and value of expenditure. RSO PA review claims made by Project Administrators prior to submission; these must be forwarded for checks using the agreed templates and in advance of the deadline.

    The PI will be asked to confirm accuracy of any major financial aspects of the grant, such as adjusting budgets or submitting financial reports.

  • Expenditure Evidence

    In order to comply with funder regulations and to pass an audit Lancaster University must provide the relevant evidence against all research project expenditure. Failure to provide evidence can put the funding for individual items of expenditure or whole projects at risk. In these cases, the department will be responsible for funding any ineligible expenditure.

    It is important that PIs send all receipts that evidence staff expenses and university credit card expenditure to finance so that these can be kept. Copies of many different types of expenditure are held electronically on Agresso, where this is not possible RSO has an archive containing paper copies.

  • Closing Projects

    Once all claims are made and final payments have been received, Post-Award closes the grant, charging any overspends or ineligible expenditure to the appropriate departmental cost centre.

Audit Requirements

  • Project audits

    All major funders expect recipient institutions of research funding to provide assurance that public funds are spent efficiently and in a cost-effective manner. Some research projects are subject to financial audits. Scientific (technical) and management risk audits may also take place.

    Most grants audit are managed by the Post Award Team, but will require assistance from the PI / Project Team. Please contact them if you are approached by a funder or by a funder’s appointed auditor with regard to arranging an audit.

    As part of the reporting process for some research, projects there may be a requirement to include an independent report prepared by an external auditor of factual findings according to the term and conditions of grant.

  • Financial Audits

    Some funders (or their appointed auditors) conduct audits covering Lancaster University processes and the financial transactions of specific research projects to ensure that expenditure has been incurred according to the terms and conditions of the award. Visits usually span several days and all funders have the right to audit the research they fund.

    If any Principal Investigator or Faculty are approached directly by a funder or by the funder’s appointed auditor, they should contact Post Award Team immediately.

    For financial audits, generally the following items will be looked at:

    • Copies of invoices and expense claims
    • Billing report and reconciliation with submitted claims
    • Back up for personnel costs, including signed timesheet, Statements of exclusivity, Contract of Employment and any subsequent contract extension or contract change letters
    • Evidence of following procurement process
    • Evidence of due diligence checks
    • Boarding Passes
    • Sign in sheets from events
    • Breakdown of guests from meals and the relevance to the grant
  • Technical Audits

    Technical audits will normally consider

    • Degree of fulfilment of the project work plan and deliverables for the relevant period
    • Continued relevance of the objectives
    • Management procedures and methods of projects
    • The beneficiaries’ contributions and integration within the project
    • Use of resources in relation to the achieved progress
    • Expected impact of the project with focus on dissemination
  • Innovate Audits
    • Very large grant or special circumstances - grant of £2m or more - report required with all claims.
    • Grant £500k – below £2m - report required with first claim, last claim and each anniversary of the project start date.
    • Grant £100k – below £500k - first and last claims only.
    • Grant below £100k for all organisations - last claim only.
    • Grant <= £25K - formal report replaced by statement of expenditure, including eligible costs incurred and paid, signed by a Director of the Participants. Copies of all Annexes will be required.
    • Timesheets will be needed for DA and DI Staff.
  • EC Audit requirements

    For European Commission (EC) funded projects there are different certification (audit) requirements for FP7 and H2020 projects.

    FP7

    • On all FP7 projects (including European Research Council and Marie Curie Actions), costs need to be certified when the EC contribution reaches €375,000 (cumulative). This means that some FP7 projects may not need to be certified.

    H2020

    • For H2020 projects, a Certificate on the Financial Statements (Audit) covering all reporting periods will be required with the final claim when the total requested reimbursement is €325,000 or more. For Research and Innovation Actions, Innovation Actions & ERC grants, the €325,000 threshold is based on actual and unit costs, excluding Indirect Costs. No audit is required for Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Actions. Some H2020 projects may not need to be certified and there is no requirement for Faculty Research Services to apply a percentage adjustment.
    • It should be noted that the Consortium may decide that partners do need to provide certificates on the financial statements even when the European Commission contribution is below the threshold (either €375,000 for FP7 or €325,000 for H2020). In these cases, the costs associated with the certification are not eligible to be charged to the project, so will have to be covered by Faculty.
  • RCUK Assurance Programme

    The RCUK Assurance unit undertakes an annual programme of institutional visits on behalf of the Research Councils to provide assurance relating to the regularity, probity and accountability of funds provided.

    Further information about the RCUK Assurance Programme.

  • Eligibility of Costs

    All expenditure in relation to research projects must be checked to ensure that it is in line with the terms and conditions of funding. As a general rule, and in order to justify any expenditure, consideration should be given as to whether the cost:

    • Was included in the original Justification of Resources/Proposal?
    • Was subsequently awarded?
    • Is of direct benefit to the research and proper use of public funds?
    • Is economic, necessary and solely attributable to the project?
    • Is not deemed to be in any way excessive or reckless?

     

    NB: Accountability for compliance with College policy and Funder requirements ultimately rests with the Principal Investigator (PI). The PI is accountable to their Head of Department.

  • PI / Management Responsibilities regarding audit and assurance
    • Ensure that research projects comply with any monitoring and audit requirements.
    • Make sure that researchers charged with carrying out such monitoring and audits have sufficient training, resources and support to fulfil the requirements of the role.
    • Monitor and audit research projects to ensure that they are being carried out in accordance with good practice, legal and ethical requirements, and any other guidelines, adopting a risk based and proportional approach.
    • Consider any requirements for monitoring and audit at an early stage in the design of a project.
    • Must cooperate with the monitoring and audit of their research projects by applicable bodies and undertake such when required.
    • Must cooperate with any outcomes of the monitoring and audit of their research projects. If they become aware of a need for monitoring and audit where it is not already scheduled, they should report that need to the appropriate person(s).