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...