Expense Monitoring

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Expense monitoring is an important component of successful financial management at the University.  When expenses support sponsored research, it is especially critical.  Each sponsored research project will have a specific aim/purpose defined in the terms and conditions of the award.  The expense types required to complete that aim will be outlined in the approved budget.  Sponsors require, and expect, that there will be a clear link, a one-to-one connection, between the expense items purchased and that aim.

In order to verify that expenses are allowable, allocable, reasonable, necessary, and consistently applied regardless of the source of funds, and to discover errors, it is necessary to monitor research expenses with a monthly reconciliation.

Posting Transactions to Sponsored Accounts

The spending of any funds awarded by the federal government to UC Irvine is governed by the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance), published by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

In addition to the Uniform Guidance, UC Irvine must comply with the Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) For Educational Institutions, 48 CFR Part 9905.

The purpose of the CAS is to ensure consistency in:

  • Estimating, accumulating, and reporting costs (CAS 501)
  • Allocating costs incurred for the same purpose in like circumstances (CAS 502)
  • Accounting for unallowable costs (CAS 505)
  • Cost accounting periods (CAS 506)

For additional guidance on appropriate budgeting and expenditures of sponsored funds whether from federal or non-federal sources and whether the award is directed toward research, training or other purposes, please see Budget and Expenditures and the Allowability of Costs sections of the Contract and Grant Manual.

Documentation and Justification

Documentation is required to justify any expense charged to a sponsored award.  All costs charged to sponsored awards should be backed up by the appropriate documentation, such as: invoices, receipts, travel reimbursements, evidence of receipt of goods and services, purchase requisitions and purchase orders, and any other related supporting documents.

The backup for expenditures should be adequate to support and justify that:

  • The expense provides a direct benefit to the award
  • The expense complies with any award restrictions and approval requirements outlined in the terms and conditions of the award.

Documentation and justification must be maintained according to the Justification and Documentation of Expenditures and Research Record Retention & Disposition.  For additional information, please refer to the UCOP Research Policy Analysis and Coordination website.

Prior Written Approval Requirement (UG §200.407)

In some cases grantees must consult with the Sponsor and receive an approval BEFORE making a change to the grant. Examples of grant changes requiring prior approval include:

  • Disengagement or change of PI
  • Change in key person specified in the award
  • New subawards not already approved in awarded budget
  • Pre-award costs of more than 90 days
  • Rebudgeting of funds allotted for directed payments to trainees and participant support costs to other categories of expenses
  • Changes to approved cost sharing

Under their Expanded Authorities, Federal awarding agencies are authorized to waive prior written approvals for some specific changes to the approved award budget. For more information about how several Federal Agencies exercised this right, please visit 

Research Terms and Conditions Appendix A, Prior Approval Matrix https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/fedrtc/appendix_a.pdf

General Ledger Reconciliation

Reconciling accounts on a regular basis is necessary in order to ensure that expenditures and revenues are within appropriate limits and guidelines. Regular monitoring of sponsored accounts helps to:

  • Confirm the availability of project funds as needed.
  • Ensure that costs are consistent with the project schedule and incurred between the start and stop dates of the project.
  • Discover any errors in your budget, encumbrances, or expenditures, whether these are caused by an end user, a service department, or any other system-generated problem.
  • Avoid overspending, which may cause a deficit and limit further spending.
  • Ascertain that revenues have been received.
  • Provide Principal Investigator with a high degree of confidence that the project is in compliance with the sponsor's spending terms and conditions.
  • Verify that cost transfers and corrections have been made or are made in a timely manner.
  • Maintain a clear audit trail for the future.

Additional Resources

Need more help or have a question? Contact the Contracts and Grants team: