The National Science Foundation’s Office of the Inspector General recently announced that Fort Valley State University has fulfilled its compliance program commitments with its fifth and final compliance report as outlined in a five-year settlement agreement executed by the Department of Justice and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.
“We are elated to reach the conclusion of this compliance program commitment,” said Denise Eady, FVSU Compliance Officer and Special Assistant to the President. “This has been a strenuous process, but one that has resulted in a stronger, better trained university whose staff is well versed in grants program management and compliance fulfillment.”
The NSF is an independent, U.S. federal agency that promotes the progress of science. The organization is one of the top external agencies that provide grant funding to FVSU. The NSF’s OIG conducts independent audits and investigations involving NSF funds and operations. The university currently receives a total of $2,150, 282 annually in NSF funding.
On Feb. 20, 2015, the university submitted its fifth and final annual report to the OIG as required under a previous $500,000 settlement agreement between FVSU, the Georgia Board of Regents and the U.S. government.
As a part of the settlement, the OIG required the university to conduct a mandatory five-year compliance agreement, where the university, at its own expense, would create a compliance plan to ensure that it would adhere to federal award conditions. As part of the agreement, the university agreed to hire a senior-level administrator as a compliance officer. FVSU also constructed a compliance program that would be administered by the Office of Sponsored Programs that would identify all OSP employees and any FVSU workers that received NSF grants.
The university also appointed a senior level administrator – Denise Eady – to report to FVSU’s president as the compliance officer for the Compliance Program for the NSF.
The administrator said FVSU launched a strategic plan to ensure that it complied with all federal regulations and OIG mandates. The university established a code of conduct that held FVSU personnel to ethical standards of professional conduct and integrity, including addressing conflicts of interests. Additionally, the campus was required to provide accurate time and effort reporting, a correct charging of costs, and accurate monitoring, managing and reporting of cost sharing for NSF awards.
“I did spot checking, if someone received a new grant and received equipment, I would periodically check to see if that equipment was tagged,” Eady said. “NSF fraud prevention posters were also strategically placed around campus in the Academic Classroom and Laboratory Building (where Biology and Chemistry research occurs), the Stallworth Building, and the Office of Sponsored Programs (where everything is processed).”
According to Eady, the university also created a compliance committee to oversee NSF awards process. Additionally, the governmental office required FVSU to provide five annual reports that would include an annual, independent financial audit of NSF award expenditures and notify the agency of any deficiencies related to NSF awards.
The university hired the accounting firm of Bambo Sonaike CPA, LLC, to conduct audits of their NSF compensation programs.
Every year, Eady also conducted a training with FVSU employees that received NSF grant funding to teach them about proper policies, laws and regulations.
In its fifth and final evaluation, the NSF had two minor findings that required the university to establish more internal controls for NSF funding and policies, and to ensure that all payments were accurate and that there were no overpayments or underpayments to awardees.