We are listening to the assistant director of audit for the NSF office of the inspector general, and this office has been pretty busy this year. The NSF OIG handles allegations and handles:
- Fraud waste and abuse
- Research misconduct
- Violations of law or policy
- Financial and performance audits
Alllegations are unsubstantiated until fully investigated. A majority of allegations end at the inquiry phase because there is not enough information to substantiate the allegation. Its interesting to note that the speaker notes an increase in recommendations for suspensions and debarments for investigators that have an adverse finding after an investigation. Grant oversight items that the OIG looks for when analyzing grants:
- Funding portfolio of the PI (Are they continuously funded by NSF?)
- Burn rate.
- Use of cost share accounts.
- Management of subcontracts and consultants.
- Documentation of costs and appropriate approvals
- Cost compliance: work the circulars.
The bottom line – an auditor’s role is to come in and assess the issue, and determine the intention of the individual/s involved. An honest mistake is different than research misconduct or financial fraud. Our job is to prevent this, ultimately, but an auditor can tell the difference.