Monday, July 14, 2008

Cover your butt syndrome

I have a grant from the National Science Foundation, a Federal agency, to run a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site. Basically this lets me bring eight undergraduate students into the Department to do research for ten weeks during the Summer. The grant pays them a stipend and covers the cost of staying in the dorms for ten weeks. On Friday afternoon I had an interesting phone call from the University accounting office:

After introductions and various pleasantries...

Accounting drone: "We have a bill from University housing that they want to charge to your NSF REU grant. We need you to send us a written justification for paying for dorm housing on a grant. And we need it in the next hour or so - this is the last day we can pay this off the last financial year of the grant."

Me: "There's a specific budget line item for covering these costs. We justified that when we applied for the money. And it's a requirement of the NSF that we provide dorm housing."

Accounting drone: "We still need a justification for why you're paying for dorm housing on a grant."

Me: "This is a grant for training undergraduate students and requires us to provide dorm housing. I don't understand why you need a justification when we already had to provide that when we applied for the grant."

Accounting drone: "It's in case we're audited."

Me: "Audited by whom?"

Accounting drone: "The Federal government."

Me: "Let me get this straight, you need me to justify spending Federal grant money on dorm housing mandated by the Federal agency that provided the grant in case the Federal government decides to audit us because the University is afraid that such a Federal audit might get it into trouble if we didn't justify spending Federal dollars on Federally-mandated dorm housing?"

Accounting drone: "Yes."

Me: "I see..."



To her credit, this was not accounting drone's fault, and she did send me a copy of someone else's justification to copy from (there's more than one REU site on campus). But still...

6 comments:

JollyRgr said...

How can your job and mine suffer the same bizarre and frustrating problems yet be poles apart.............oh hang on....bureaucracy....government bureaucracy....it's obvious really!

Goose said...

Ah! It reminds me of the time my old lab had to justify buying scissors... Ah the hilarity!

Odyssey said...

Scissors? That's a no-no. They be office supplies. Can't buy office supplies on a grant. No, no, no!

Of course the University won't buy office supplies for us either...

Goose said...

Actually, the scissors were bought for cutting dialysis tubing... now they have a pair for each grant...

The University won't buy mechanical pencils for labs, only the old fashion kind that require a pencil sharpener...

drdrA@live.com said...

OH MY GOSH. I get shit like this all the time. It's just unbelievable

Anonymous said...

from accountant in my dept re our REU program:
"can you please provide a complete justification for the charges for the dorm that will hit your grant account. Thank you. This would include the 5W's. Please include the benefit to the grant . Thanks, Drone" (imagine smiley face emoticon)

Maybe our accountant and your accountant went to the same drone school? What is a 5W?