Case #1:  Engage in appropriate accounting.

Nora is a faculty member with two research awards.  One of them is nearing completion but has more than $20,000 of unspent funds.  Arthur, the departmental administrator, tells Sharon, Nora's lab assistant, to use the remaining funds to buy software needed for the ongoing project.  Sharon questions this request, because the software will not be used to support the ongoing project.  Arthur tells Sharon not to worry because “everyone spends down grant funds to zero – we don’t want to have to return any unspent funds.”

What should Sharon do?

  1. Tell Arthur that she does not think it is appropriate, and leave the funds unspent.
  2. Do as Arthur says, because everyone else does.
  3. Buy the software that she needs for the ongoing project with the remaining funds.  Since both are Nora’s awards, they are sufficiently related.

A.  Every UAB community member is responsible for ensuring that UAB funds are spent only on allowable, allocable, and reasonable expenses.  In this case, Sharon can fulfill the expectation of the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct by raising questions about allocating the software expenses to the ongoing project.  Since it will not be used to support the work of that project, Sharon is correct in refusing to use the unspent funds to purchase the software.  She cannot assume that the two awards are related just because they are led by a single faculty member.  The funds must be left unspent, unless there are other allowable, allocable, and reasonable expenses that might be attributed to award.

Case #2:  Prevent waste and abuse.

Tonya is the departmental administrator for a small department.  Boyd, the new chair, wants to get to know everyone better and institutes a monthly lunch meeting in the conference room with all faculty and staff to discuss departmental matters, including teaching activities, research projects, and fund raising activities.  Boyd tells Tonya to get an invoice from the caterer and charge it to one of his non-federal sponsored projects as an incidental meal. 

What should Tonya do?

  1. Tell Boyd that with the range of topics discussed she would suggest paying for the lunch from either the department’s state funds or Boyd’s development funds.
  2. Tell one of the more senior faculty members in the department what Boyd said and ask the faculty member to talk to him.
  3. Do as Boyd said because he is her supervisor.
  4. Do as Boyd said because it is a non-federal project and does not matter if the expenditures relate to the aim of the project.

A.  One of the ways that Tonya can support Boyd's leadership in her role as department administrator is to ensure that transactions of the department comply with all relevant regulations, policies, and guidelines.  In this case, Tonya’s best next step is to discuss with Boyd how incidental meal expenses should be charged.  In this case, it is not likely that the discussion topics relate closely enough to the non-federal sponsored projects to be allocated to those accounts.  Tonya may best fulfill her accountability to the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct for safeguarding UAB resources by offering suggestions for acceptable alternatives, like a departmental account or a discretionary account.