Our Internal Audit staff is always available to answer your questions or point you in the right direction. The frequently asked questions here may be enough to get you started so please take a look them. If you have questions that aren't answered here, you can always call our staff for help.
1. Are all University assets meeting the University's definition of capitalized equipment (tangible personal property, having a useful life of more than one year, and an acquisition cost of $5,000 ) tagged with a serially numbered University tag?
Ideal Answer: YES. The tag number and the associated asset information are recorded in the University's central database of assets and are used when the departments complete their biennial equipment inventory. The tag also is a theft deterrent as it allows for tracking capital identifying information (serial number, model number, etc.) allowing for easy identification. University equipment that is federally titled must also be tagged with a government label that indicates federal ownership and the name of the respective federal agency. Tag numbers are assigned to assets that have been acquired by gift and fall under the University's capitalized equipment definition. University tags without a number can be requested for assets not meeting the University's equipment definition.
2. Is the Capital Assets Management (CAM) Office notified of any equipment obtained through sources other than purchasing, such as gifts, transfers from other departments, transferred to the University with new faculty members, and fabricated items that meet the University's equipment definition?
Ideal Answer: YES. The responsibility for providing CAM with all required information for capitalized equipment inventory records lies with the department initiating the acquisition or transfer of the equipment. The equipment information is maintained on a central database to track the University's assets, compute depreciation expense for the University's financial statements, and to provide departments with inventory reports. The necessary forms and instructions can be located at CAM's website: https://cam.fo.uiowa.edu/content/forms-and-instructions.
3. Has a departmental capitalized equipment inventory been conducted within the last two years?
Ideal Answer: YES. Each department is required to conduct a complete physical inventory of capitalized equipment every two years. Any additions, deletions, transfers or corrections (i.e. changes in the location or custodian) discovered during the biennial inventory must be reported to CAM on the proper reporting form. The department can use bar code scanners, provided by CAM, or a current departmental listing to complete the inventory. Upon completion of the inventory, the departmental executive officer must sign any applicable equipment adjustment forms and forward them to CAM along with the signed certification letter, certifying that the physical inventory has been completed. The department is responsible for notifying CAM of all changes in the status of equipment between biennial inventories. This shall include, but is not limited to, assets stolen, lost, cannibalized, sent to Surplus Store, changes in location and custodian. The necessary forms and instructions can be located at CAM's website: https://cam.fo.uiowa.edu/content/forms-and-instructions.
4. When any asset (capitalized and non-capitalized) has been identified for disposal, is the first step to contact University Surplus?
Ideal Answer: NO. Equipment dispositions result from sales, trade-ins, donations, declarations as surplus property, cannibalizing for parts, scrapping, transfers to another department or another institution related to a departing faculty member. Regardless of the method of disposal for any asset (capitalized and non-capitalized), the proper disposal form must be completed and submitted to CAM for authorization. The responsibility for providing the CAM with all required information lies with the department initiating the disposition of the asset. The necessary forms and instructions can be located at CAM's website: https://cam.fo.uiowa.edu/content/forms-and-instructions.
5. When any University property is stolen, destroyed or missing would CAM be contacted first?
Ideal Answer: NO. Any University property, including items of equipment, destroyed, stolen or otherwise missing, must be reported to Campus Police at the time it is discovered missing. If the property is not recovered within 48 hours, the incident must be reported in writing to the University's Risk Manager. At the same time a Deductions Request form and a copy of the Campus Police report must be sent to CAM to assure that the item will be removed from the University's asset management system. There are additional requirements if the asset is federal property. The necessary forms and instructions can be located at CAM's website: https://cam.fo.uiowa.edu/content/forms-and-instructions.
6. Are University assets used off-campus properly accounted for?
Ideal Answer: YES. Short-term use: When any equipment belonging either to the University or the federal government, and under the custody of the University, is going to be used off-campus for periods up to six months, it must be approved and documented by the appropriate departmental office. Such records are to be maintained at the department and do not need to be sent to CAM.
Long-term use: When any equipment belonging either to the University or the federal government, and under the custody of the University, is going to be used off-campus for periods longer than six months, it must be approved and documented by the appropriate departmental office. The responsible department must notify CAM by submitting the Off-Campus Use of Property form. This form and instructions can be located at CAM's website:https://cam.fo.uiowa.edu/content/forms-and-instructions.
7. Are University employees allowed to use University property for personal use?
Ideal Answer: NO. No public officer, deputy, or employee of the State of Iowa or any governmental subdivision thereof, who has charge or custody of any governmental subdivision of Iowa, or by the federal government while in the custody of the State of Iowa, shall use or operate the same or permit the same to be used or operated for any private purpose (Iowa Code 721.2).
1. Are there procedures to establish accountability for revenues immediately upon receipt?
Ideal Answer: YES. A cash register, cash receipt journal/log, or other mechanism should be used to establish accountability immediately as monies are received. This will provide an audit trail of the funds received and support the recording of the transaction into the University records.
2. Are all checks properly endorsed "for deposit only" to the University?
Ideal Answer: YES. Checks should be endorsed immediately upon receipt "for deposit only" to the University to prevent diversion and unauthorized cashing. You can use a stamp or hand-write the following text: "For deposit only, University of Iowa , Department of ________________." The Departmental MFK to charge must also be recorded on the back of the check in case it is returned for NSF.
3. Are cash and related items (checks, credit card receipts, parking stickers) physically safeguarded against theft and loss?
Ideal Answer: YES. Cash items are extremely vulnerable to theft and should be secured at all times with access limited to authorized personnel. Ideally, a safe should be used for storage of cash items until deposited. Alternatively, a locking box bolted/secured into a drawer that is also locked could be used. Access to a safe or lock box should be limited to very few and should remain locked while not in use. Safe combinations should be changed periodically and when employees with access terminate. Combinations and keys should be kept in a secure, secret place. Any substantial shortage or apparent theft must be reported immediately to Campus Police.
4. Is there proper separation of duties in the cash handling function (an individual should not have responsibility for more than one of the cash handling components: recording of charges/billing, collecting, depositing, and reconciling)?
Ideal Answer: YES. There should be proper separation of duties between the employees accepting money, making the deposit and the employees responsible for maintaining the accounting records applicable to the payments. Deposit records should be reconciled to the daily and monthly accounting reports to ensure deposits have been posted to the appropriate account for the appropriate amount. To ensure that differences are discovered, someone who does not handle cash should do this. Proper separation of duties promotes accountability and reduces the risk of possible wrongdoing.
5. Are cash shortages identified, analyzed, recorded, and reported?
Ideal Answer: YES. Operational cash overages and shortages should be recorded to provide an audit trail of these occurrences. The reconciliation process should identify the amounts of cash overages/shortages and management should investigate to determine the underlying cause. Appropriate corrective action should be taken to prevent further losses or errors. Any substantial shortage or apparent theft must be reported immediately to Campus Police.
6. Are funds collected and deposited at least weekly or when the amount on hand is greater than $500, whichever occurs first?
Ideal Answer: YES. In order to reduce the amount and risk of loss to the University, funds must be deposited at least once a week or whenever collections exceed $500. However, daily deposits are encouraged.
7. Are all funds collected properly deposited intact?
Ideal Answer: YES. To ensure that all receipts are posted properly to the Unit's fund account(s), the entire amount of receipts collected must be deposited. None of the cash collected in the Unit may be used prior to deposit. For example, the Unit can not use $10 of its cash receipts to purchase postage and then reduce the amount of its cash deposit by the $10 used.
8. Is someone independently reviewing and approving voids and refunds?
Ideal Answer: YES. A good control activity is to require someone with proper authority to approve voids and refunds before they are processed. The person providing this approval should not be the same person who initiated the transaction. The approval should be documented and retained with the daily records.
9. Are steps taken to ensure safety of the person transporting the deposit to the bank or drop site location?
Ideal Answer: YES. Secure the deposit in a locked money bag/pouch. Be as inconspicuous as possible by disguising the money bag in some fashion, such as placing it in a book bag. Alter the route and time of delivery to the designated deposit drop-off location.
10. Is your Change Fund and/or Cash Advance an authorized advance from Accounting Services?
Ideal Answer: YES. All University funds must be recorded and properly accounted for. If you are going to make change, then you will need a Change Fund. A Request for Approval of Change Fund or Cash Advance form, found on the UI Cash Handling web site http://www.bo.uiowa.edu/cashhandling, must be completed and approved by Accounting Services. Keep the amount of the advance at a bare minimum; it can always be increased if necessary. Do not hold back receipts to increase your Change Fund. The entire amount of receipts collected must be deposited to the Unit's fund account(s).
A Cash Advance is necessary for numerous reasons, most commonly for "petty cash." With the ability to put most purchases on a departmental procurement card, please conduct a thorough analysis prior to requesting an advance of this type and subjecting the department to additional responsibility of safeguarding the money
11. Are the Change Fund and/or Cash Advance funds balanced daily?
To ensure that University funds are properly accounted for, Change Funds and Cash Advances must be balanced every time they are used or at least monthly. The cash amount (plus original detailed purchase receipts, for Cash Advances) should always equal the amount that Accounting Services has granted to the department. Employees are prohibited from using the funds to make loans (IOU's), or to cash personal or payroll checks. The funds must be kept locked in a secure location except when being used to accept funds or transact business.
1. Sales tax: Are you aware that all purchases made in the State of Iowa as well as goods shipped to the State of Iowa should be tax exempt?
Ideal Answer: YES. Tell the vendor that the University of Iowa is tax exempt from State sales taxes and give the tax exempt number 42-6004813.
2. Purchases from University Faculty or Staff: Are you aware there is a policy regarding purchases from faculty or staff?
Ideal Answer: YES. Purchases from faculty or staff members cannot exceed $2,000 in any one occurrence unless the sale is made pursuant to an award or contract as a result of competitive bidding. Vendors must be reviewed and approved by the Director of Purchasing when there is disclosure or indication of a conflict of interest. Purchases From University Faculty or Staff. (https://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/administrative-financial-and-facilities-policies/purchasing/purchases-university-faculty-or-staff)
3. Expenditure of Funds on Deposit with University Allied Organizations: Do you know the general policy regarding funds on deposit with allied organizations?
Ideal Answer: YES. General policy. Funds in allied organizations intended for support of the University shall be transferred to the University for expenditure rather than be expended directly from the allied organization. Expenditures on behalf of the University involving equipment, building construction or renewal, or as compensation for a University employee must be transferred to a University account where they will be subject to the Board of Regents' and the University's policies. Funds on Deposit with Allied Organizations. (https://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/administrative-financial-and-facilities-policies/deposits-and-expenditures-funds-allied)
4. Rewards and Recognition Program: Are you aware there is site you can review regarding rewards and recognition?
Ideal Answer: YES. General Education Funds may be used for business-related items, e.g. training and conference expenses, journal subscriptions, membership fees-those expenses that assist or improve an employee's performance. Low cost awards to show appreciation for staff, e.g. personalized plaques, certificates, cups or trophies may be bought with General Fund money. Developing a written recognition program will benefit your department should an auditing agency question your use of funds. (https://hr.uiowa.edu/recognition)
5. Technology Allowance Policy: Are you aware there is a Technology Allowance policy?
Ideal Answer: YES. University employees who meet the eligibility requirements for business use will be given a predetermined amount of supplemental compensation to cover the approximate monthly cost of a cell phone or cellular PDA, and/or remote Internet service. Additional information can be found in the Technology Allowance policy at the below link: (https://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/administrative-financial-and-facilities-policies/purchasing/technology-allowance-policy)
6. Low Dollar Purchasing: Are you familiar with procurement card purchasing and E-buy?
Ideal Answer: YES. A procurement credit card is available to departments to obtain low-cost, non-equipment items. Departments may have as many cards as required to reasonably meet such procurement needs. With this authority, the department assumes the responsibility to comply with all state, Regent, and University policies governing procurement operations. See the Purchasing Policies and Procedures Guide (https://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/sites/opsmanual.uiowa.edu/files/wysiwyg_uplo...) for detailed procurement credit card procedures.
E-buy streamlines the purchasing process and helps ensure you receive University discounted/contracted pricing. E-buy can be accessed via the University Self Service web site by clicking on the Administrative tab and navigating to the E-Pro (E-Vouchers & PReqs) link.
7. Iowa Gift Law: Are you familiar with the Iowa gift law?
Ideal Answer: YES. The Iowa state "gift law" informs us that no more than $3.00 a day is legal to buy something for a person who has authority over aspects of your employment, i.e. supervisors. This is to ensure that neither positive nor negative consequences from a gift would arise for staff.
1. Is there an organizational chart clearly defining lines of authority and responsibility?
Ideal Answer: Yes. If no organizational chart is available, such lines should be clearly established and communicated to department personnel.
2. Is there a current policies and procedures manual in the department covering all functions? Is there a systematic procedure to keep them updated?
Ideal Answer: Yes. Documenting procedures helps ensure consistency by providing a clear means to communicate standards and expectations to staff.
3. Are all funds and accounts reviewed monthly and variances or deficits noted, analyzed and reported to management?
Ideal Answer: Yes. Departments should ensure financial reports are adequately reviewed and unusual activity or trends reported to management.
4. Are all financial funds or accounts assigned to a responsible person who is accountable for properly managing the fiscal resources?
Ideal Answer: Yes. Frequent communication can help reduce misunderstandings and identify potential problems earlier.
5. Does department maintain the detail for all journal entries (CV's) prepared and posted to the general ledger?
Ideal Answer: Yes. Often the general ledger journal entry is just a summary of many transactions over the course of a day, week, month, etc. In these circumstances, the department should maintain the original documentation or individual transaction detail that supports these journal entries.
6. Are the results of operation monitored through use of measurable performance indicators? Are written reports required by management to evaluate performance?
Ideal Answer: Yes. Departments should have a methodology to identify key business processes and routinely measure how well they carry out those processes.
7. Do supervisors meet regularly and informally with management? Do reports highlight significant or unusual variations?
Ideal Answer: Yes. Frequent communication can help reduce misunderstandings and identify potential problems earlier.
8. Does the department have procedures for monitoring compliance?
Ideal Answer: Yes. Departments should identify and document all key compliance issues and ensure responsibility for maintaining compliance is clearly assigned to appropriate personnel.
9. Are records maintained in accordance with the Records Management Policies?
Ideal Answer: Yes. Departments should be aware of approved records retention policies to ensure that both proper records are maintained and unnecessary records are disposed.
10. Does department record and track issuance of keys?
Ideal Answer: Yes. Departments should be aware of employees who have keys to buildings, labs, safes, etc., and ensure all keys are promptly returned from any employee either no longer requiring access or leaving the employment of the University.
11. Are all department employees who work with student records familiar with FERPA policies?
Ideal Answer: Yes. University provides free training to any University employee.
In addition to this abbreviated FAQ, a more comprehensive IT risk assessment document is available for system administrators, in PDF format. Click below to open the questionnaire.
1. Does each person with system access have a unique (not shared) user ID?
Ideal Answer: YES. Anyone needing access to any IT system must have their own personal ID.
2. Are user ID's and passwords kept secret?
Ideal Answer: YES. User ID's and passwords should be kept confidential and never shared with anyone.
3. Are user passwords composed of at least 9 alpha/numeric characters and passwords changed at least every 365 days for non-administrator accounts or at least 15 alpha/numeric characters and passwords changed at least every 180 days for administrator accounts?
Ideal Answer: YES. The University's Enterprise Password Policy requires this.
4. Are files of personal computers, including laptops and notebooks, backed-up on a regular basis?
Ideal Answer: YES. Files stored on personal computer local drives should either be backed-up to a network drive or to a disk media (floppy/CD-R/DVD-R) on a regular basis.
5. Does the department maintain individual/site license documentation for all software installed or used on departmental PS's?
Ideal Answer: YES. Documentation showing proof of purchase/license for all departmental software should be maintained in a central file. Any software installation media should be centrally secured and controlled to avoid unauthorized installation and use.
6. Is the level of IT system access assigned to each staff member regularly reviewed by management to assure that there is still a continuing need for it?
Ideal Answer: YES. User access right to information and systems should be periodically reviewed to make sure a valid job-related need still exists for the access.
7. Does department management review and approve the request for access by any staff member to the various University systems?
Ideal Answer: YES. Management should sign all access requests only after verifying that it is necessary for the staff member to perform their job duties.
8. Is the required paperwork notification completed and filed before a staff member removes any IT equipment from campus for an extended period of time?
Ideal Answer: YES. Before any University property is removed from campus for an lengthy or open period of time, an Off-Campus Use of Property From (https://cam.fo.uiowa.edu/sites/cam.fo.uiowa.edu/files/Off%20Campus%20Use%20Form%207-23-12.pdf) must be completed and filed with Property Management.
9. Are the hard drives of computers being disposed of, over-written to Department of Defense (DOD) standards or physically destroyed prior to be sent to Surplus?
Ideal Answer: YES. In order to prevent the compromise of confidential data or violation of software licensing agreements, all computer hard drives should either be overwritten using a software utility that meets DOD standards, or physically disassembled and destroyed. Please note that the standard "Format" command is not sufficient, and does not prevent data recovery. See the University Computer Data and Media Disposal Policy for more information.
10. Does the department have a documented disaster recovery/business continuation plan?
Ideal Answer: YES. All departments should document the process they would follow to restore operation in the event of a local disaster. The recovery plan should be tested on at least an annual basis. See https://itsecurity.uiowa.edu/resources/system-administrators-and-it-managers/drbcp for assistance in developing a plan.
11. Are all users aware of and implementing workstation best practices as outlined by the IT Security Office?
Ideal Answer: YES. All computer users should read and implement the use of the recommended workstation best practices. See https://itsecurity.uiowa.edu/resources/faculty-staff/information-security-workplace.
1. Are departmental policies important?
Ideal Answer: YES. University policy is sometimes not detailed enough to provide guidance specific to departmental operations. Departmental policies are useful in helping faculty, staff and students understand management's expectations for that area. They also assist in minimizing conflict between those internal and external to the operation.
2. Is it important to document key business processes?
Ideal Answer: YES. Key processes should always be well documented so that business can continue as usual in the absence of the primary business process owner. They are also great tools for cross-training existing staff and new hire training.
3. Does Internal Audit often suggest additional training in audit reports?
Ideal Answer: YES. The lack of appropriate training is often the reason why internal controls break down in processes. People want to do the right thing. They just need to know the right way to perform the activity.
4. Do we need to perform biennial asset inventories?
Ideal Answer: YES. An asset inventory is a key control to ensure that equipment is appropriately accounted for in the financial statements and that it is still in use and safeguarded from theft or destruction.
5. Is there a place I can go to find out how long supporting documentation for transactions should be kept in my department?
Ideal Answer: YES. The University has standard guidelines available at https://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/administrative-financial-and-facilities-poli... .
6. Can I accept payment for charges that I enter into a billing system?
Ideal Answer: NO. If you currently enter charges or bill for services and accept payments you are not protected from accusations of misconduct. Segregation of duties is an important internal control that not only ensures the University's assets are protected but also ensures that individuals are not wrongly accused of misappropriating those assets.
Verification of Payroll and Accounting
1. Is payroll verified before each payday using the web reports?
Ideal Answer: YES. Verification of payroll will reduce underpayments and overpayments. It should be performed by someone other than the person who enters payroll information into the system.
2. Are Human Resources standard reports viewed on a regular basis at the departmental level?
Ideal Answer: YES. The recommended web reports are designed to give departments a quick update on payroll and human resource data and a means to verify that the payroll is correct. They also serve to remind departments of needed documentation such as I-9's, updated non-resident information, and terminations that need to be processed.
3. Are Payroll expenses verified to the departmental Statement of Account reports monthly?
Ideal Answer: YES. In addition to verifying the payroll before it pays, it is necessary to verify the gross amounts paid and the fringe benefit computation each month and then verify the hash totals to the Monthly Statement of Account to assure the correct accounts were charged.
4. Are leave requests documented and compared to monthly leave reports to verify the reporting accuracy?
Ideal Answer: YES. Internal controls deter fraud. By comparing what is reported to what is requested, it catches inadvertent errors in reporting and it conveys to the employees that the department is "watchful" of their attendance. Leave requests may be documented using optional University Request for Leave forms or they may be noted on a calendar, by email, or other form of record by the supervisor.
Segregation of Duties
1. When pay statements or checks received are via campus mail are they distributed by someone other than the initiator of payroll documents?
Ideal Answer: YES. Segregation of duties will assure that payments are made to valid employees of the department.
2. Can the individual who has delegation of approval authority initiate payroll transactions in the workflow system and then approve them?
Ideal Answer: NO. Payroll transactions are to be initiated and approved by two separate individuals at the department level to maintain segregation of duties.
3. Does everyone have their own access to Payroll and Human Resource systems so that passwords are never shared?
Ideal Answer: YES. Passwords should never be shared. Everyone who needs access to perform their jobs should have their own password.
4. Are biweekly time records reviewed and approved by the employee's supervisor or their designee who has knowledge of the hours worked by the employee?
Ideal Answer: YES. The person who approves the time record is indicating that the hours are recorded correctly.
5. Are biweekly employees terminated timely?
Ideal Answer: YES. Leaving a biweekly appointment open allows the possibility of submitting fraudulent time sheets
Document Retention and Personnel File organization
1. Are search materials kept on file in the department for 3 plus current years?
Ideal Answer: YES. University requires that search materials be kept on file in the department for three plus current years. This includes applications from non-successful candidates.
2. Are Orientation Checklists and Transfer/Termination Checklists utilized by the department and maintained in personnel files?
Ideal Answer: YES. Human Resources web site has a template for these checklists that individual departments can adapt to their needs. The information and documentation resulting from using these templates not only reflects good business practice but sets the tone for good internal control.
3. Are Personnel files maintained in a secure location and do their contents follow document retention guidelines? Unnecessary documents are properly disposed of by shredding or placing in a confidential document destruction bin.
Ideal Answer: YES. Guidelines incorporate compliance issues and best practice issues. Disposing of unnecessary documentation saves space and allows for better organization.
These guidelines outline the need to keep a separate medical file for compliance purposes. https://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/human-resources/access-personnel-files
4. Are Employee Performance Reviews done annually, properly documented, entered into web reporting and kept in the personnel files?
Ideal Answer: YES. Annual Performance Reviews are a requirement. By entering them into the web reporting system, the University can measure compliance. https://hr.uiowa.edu/performance-management/performance-review
Credential and Criminal Checks
1. Are credential checks performed?
Ideal Answer: YES. Human Resources Policy requires credential checks for new hires. https://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/human-resources/hiring-and-appointments/cred...
2. Should criminal checks be performed for high risk occupations?
Ideal Answer: YES. Criminal Checks are a good business practice and protect the University from loss. https://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/human-resources/hiring-and-appointments/crim...
1. Does the Human Resource person access the information shared at monthly Human Resource Representative Meetings?
Ideal Answer: YES. Valuable information as well as training is offered at these meetings for those involved with Human Resources.
2. Are employees allowed time and resources for staff development and involvement in campus organizations relative to the department and their duties?
Ideal Answer: YES. Involvement of employees in such activities contributes to longevity of employment.
Department of Labor Compliance
1. Is the Family Medical Leave Act poster in a place for all employees to view?
Ideal Answer: YES. Department of Labor requires that every employer covered by the FMLA must post and keep posted on its premises, in conspicuous places where employees are employed a notice explaining the Act's provision and providing information concerning the procedures for filing complaints of violations of the Act with the Wage and Hour Division. The notice must be posted prominently where it can be readily seen by employees and applicants for employment.
1. Are Pcards and their card numbers properly secured?
Ideal answer: Yes. Card holders are responsible for the safe keeping of the card and number to reduce risk of theft or unauthorized purchases. This can be done by storing the card in a locked desk or file drawer.
2. Are Pcard vouchers reconciled and routed in workflow prior to the 18th of the month following the end of each billing cycle?
Ideal answer: Yes. Card holder is responsible for timely reconciliation of monthly statements. Accounts Payable policy requires this by the 18th of the month following each billing cycle.
3. Are all purchases compliant with University Pcard policy?
Ideal answer: Yes. Monthly reconciliations will confirm all transactions are legitimate. Additional information on pcard policy, training, discounts, updates, and other frequently asked questions (FAQ's) can be located on the Purchasing web site at: https://uiowa.edu/ap-purchasing/purchasing.
1. Is the official rate schedule complete and current? Is it easily accessible to your users? Are users aware of price changes in advance?
Ideal Answer: YES. To help ensure the recharge center is used to its full extent, new and existing users need to be aware of all the services provided and be able to plan ahead in their budgets for any rate changes.
2. Are rates set to break even?
Ideal Answer: YES. Recharge centers should not attempt to realize a profit on their operation. The recharge center should reduce their billing rates if their 261 fund accumulates a fund balance larger than the standard set by the Business Office. This can be done by factoring in any excess or deficit into the annual rate calculation.
3. Are the rates reviewed before the end of the fiscal year?
Ideal Answer: YES. Rate reviews and adjustments can take place at any point during the year. Performing at least an informal review during the fiscal year will identify the need for rate adjustments early and help avoid large, end of year deficits or surpluses. Rate adjustments should be timed to allow your most active customers to incorporate potential rate increases into their budgets.
4. Is the rate schedule supported by cost study?
Ideal Answer: YES. Federal cost principles require recharge center to provide adequate documentation to support costs charged to sponsored agreements. A cost study provides that documentation by showing how the rates are calculated. Recharge centers can obtain guidance for developing a cost study from the University Business Office.
5. Is the cost study complete, organized and clear?
Ideal Answer: YES. Your cost study documentation provides the support for costs charged to sponsored agreements and they will serve as the basis for any review conducted by outside parties. Consequently, the cost study needs to be presented in a manner which clearly shows or explains how the rates are calculated, how common costs are allocated and the source of the data used. Supporting schedules and source documentation should remain filed with the final cost study.
6. Is the cost study based on direct costs?
Ideal Answer: YES. Billing rates should include all direct costs of operating the recharge center. This includes expenses for personnel, materials, supplies, maintenance contracts, equipment depreciation and other operating expenses. Unallowable costs and other expenses unrelated to recharge center operations should be excluded in rate calculations for internal customers. Amounts anticipated for administrative subsidies should be factored in as a reduction or offset of total expenses before calculating the billing rate.
Revenue should not be used as the basis for a rate calculation. Revenue will always correlate closely with the rate charged, even when actual costs are significantly higher or lower. Consequently, unless the actual revenue is equal to actual costs, the resulting rates could be significantly inaccurate.
7. Do the rates calculated in the cost study agree with the official rate schedule?
Ideal Answer: YES. Calculated rates do not necessarily have to equal actual rates. However, the cost study should include notes to explain the reason for significant differences. The recharge center should be careful to avoid the appearance of or actual discriminatory pricing against Federal customers. This can occur if the recharge center subsidizes one product or service, used predominately by non-Federal users, and makes up the difference by charging a higher rate for a product or service used predominately by Federal users.
Unallowable, unrelated, administrative subsidies, and excess or deficit fund balances should not cause the rates calculated in the cost study to differ with the official rate schedule. When practicable, these items should be excluded (unallowable and unrelated) or offset (subsidies and fund balances) in the cost study before arriving at the final billing rate.
Recharge centers should also avoid shortcuts by calculating rates only for major services, or calculating an average billing rate for a group of services that are billed at different rates.
8. Are supporting schedules available for allocated costs in the cost study?
Ideal Answer: YES. Most recharge centers will have direct costs which cannot be reasonably assigned to a specific service or product. In such cases, the common costs are pooled together and allocated to services based on some methodology. The recharge center should ensure that supporting schedules or other documentation is prepared which describes the allocation methodology, identifies which costs are included in the pool, service units used (e.g. machine hours, billable hours, production runs, etc.), shows the allocation amounts and the service or products the costs are allocated to. Detailed records should support the service units totals.
9. Are all costs included in the cost study?
Ideal Answer: YES. All costs recovered through the billing rates should be paid from the recharge center’s operating accounts, i.e. Fund 261. These costs should be net of any applicable credits such as rebates, trade-ins, and purchase discounts.
10. Does the recharge center allow discounts?
Ideal Answer: NO. Federal cost principles require that rates be developed in a consistent manner and applied uniformly to Federal and non-federal activities of the university. The intention is to avoid billing practices that would charge Federal users more than comparable non-federal users. Although discounts are not prohibited, by providing discounts, the University will trigger increased scrutiny during any audit to ensure we are not violating these cost principles.
We define discounts as any differential pricing practice which deviates from the standard billing rate. This may include discounts for volume, for use during off-peak hours, for users who provide subsidies to or purchase equipment for the recharge center, for users associated with the recharge center’s department, free service, etc. For sheer efficiency and reduced risk during an audit, we recommend recharge centers charge customers a uniform rate at all times. If any differential pricing is given, the recharge center should be prepared to defend the practice by showing quantitatively that the recharge center’s costs are indeed less for the users receiving discounts. Other requirements include ensuring the discounts cannot be construed to discriminate against federal customers, are widely known, available to all users and disclosed to and approved by the University Business Office. We suggest any recharge center contemplating establishing a differential pricing practice to contact the University Business Office to discuss the proposed policy. The University Business Office can determine if the practice is defensible and, if so, what documentation should be prepared or retained to justify the policy.
11. Does the recharge center allow prepayment of services?
Ideal Answer: NO. Federal cost principles require that costs charged to Federal customers be based on actual use of the services. Recharge centers should refuse any internal customer requesting that the center bill an account for services not yet performed.
12. Does the recharge center provide a significant amount of services to the private sector?
Ideal Answer: NO. State law, Regent’s policy, and University policy all restrict competition with the private sector. Because recharge center services are subsidized and the University enjoys non-profit status, the University has a definite pricing advantage over a comparable private sector company. Consequently, to avoid allegations of competition from private sector companies, services provided to the private sector should generally be isolated and infrequent.
Additionally, the University establishes and subsidizes recharge centers solely for the benefit of University users. Significant business with external customers can trigger an unrelated business tax. Consequently, external customers using the center should have a documented affiliation with the University or directly support the University’s mission. Examples could include private companies at the University’s Research Park, for purposes of economic development, and opportunities for unique training or research data.
13. Is capital equipment paid for in the 261 fund?
Ideal Answer: NO. Capital equipment should be paid for in the recharge center’s 676 fund. Federal cost principles require that recharge centers recover the cost of capital equipment through depreciation or use allowances. Consequently, cost principles will only allow charging depreciation expense to the 261 fund over the equipment’s useful life, as opposed to charging the full cost of the equipment in the year acquired.
14. Does the equipment depreciation schedule include equipment paid for from Federal sources?
Ideal Answer: NO. Depreciation cannot be charged to the recharge center’s 261 fund if the equipment was originally paid for with Federal funding. This would result in a double recovery of costs, once through depreciation and once through the original outlay by the Federal source.
In situations where equipment is partially paid for with Federal and non-federal funds, the recharge center can recover those costs paid for with non-federal funds.
15. Is the recharge center’s 676 fund used only for capital equipment?
Ideal Answer: YES. University policy restricts this fund for capital equipment purchases. The recharge center’s 676 fund is funded by monthly transfers from the 261 fund in amounts equal to the depreciation charged to the 261 fund. The purpose of these transfers is to provide replacement funding for the equipment being depreciated. If recharge centers use this funding to pay for other operating costs, the pool of funds in the 676 fund will be eroded and not be sufficient to purchase the replacement equipment.
Recharge centers lacking funding in their 676 fund for the purchase of new equipment must either identify other funding sources within the college or request loan through the University equipment purchase program.
1. Are Principal Investigators (PI) and those responsible for sponsored programs administration familiar with OMB Circulars A-21 and A-110?
Ideal Answer: Yes. It is very important that those responsible for sponsored programs administration are familiar with these regulations. OMB Circulars A-21 and A-110 are the federal regulations that govern sponsored programs on campus. They detail requirements for allowable costs, and effort reporting among other requirements. They can be located at the Office of Management and Budget's web site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants_circulars/
2. Are sponsored project's financial statements of accounts reconciled monthly?
Ideal Answer: Yes. This is the responsibility of each PI. It should be done by the PI, or someone on their staff who is responsible for the administration of the project. This should be done monthly so discrepancies can be resolved in a timely manner.
3. Is the most recent Facilities and Administrative (F&A) cost percentage being used in research proposals?
Ideal Answer: Yes. This rate can change every couple years, so it is good to refer to the following web site as it provides updates on the current F&A rate: https://gao.fo.uiowa.edu/
4. Is written approval obtained from federal sponsors prior to reducing effort by more than 25% of what was committed, or when the PI or approved project director are going to be absent from the project for more than 3 months?
Ideal Answer: Yes. The federal government requires that written approval is requested and granted prior to either of these situations.
5. Is non-faculty support staff effort certified by the PI or direct supervisor?
Ideal Answer: Yes. The person certifying effort must have "first hand" knowledge of the effort expended. The PI or direct supervisor should certify effort for non-faculty support staff. Additional effort reporting information can be located at the Business Office's effort reporting web site: https://gao.fo.uiowa.edu/effort-reporting/appointments
6. Is effort certification based on total University funded effort?
Ideal Answer: Yes. The definition of 100% effort is total University funded effort. This includes all effort required to complete the tasks of one's position, regardless of hours worked per week. Additional effort reporting information can be located at the Business Office's effort reporting web site: https://gao.fo.uiowa.edu/effort-reporting
Other Sponsored Programs Administration web links:
Division of Sponsored Programs - http://dsp.research.uiowa.edu/
Research Administration Handbook - http://dsp.research.uiowa.edu/rah/research-administration-handbook
Grant Accounting Office - https://gao.fo.uiowa.edu/
Human Subjects Office - http://research.uiowa.edu/human-subjects-research
Office of Animal Resources -http://research.uiowa.edu/animal-research
1. Does the department advise employees that the meal limits are limits on spending, not a per diem?
Ideal Answer: YES. Travel regulations state that meal claims should reflect actual/reasonable expense not to exceed the maximum daily allowance.
2. Are travelers allowed to enter more than one trip per Travel Expense Voucher?
Ideal Answer: NO. A Travel Expense Voucher should only be for one trip. Employees who travel daily should not enter multiple trips on one voucher.
3. Is the travel workflow routing pre-determined in your area?
Ideal Answer: YES. The workflow administrator for your area should have assigned a designated route to match the first account being charged.
4. If the traveler is not a U of I employee and cannot access workflow, are procedures in place that provide for documentation of the traveler's participation?
Ideal Answer: YES. The non-university traveler must sign the completed "ProTrav Acknowledgement of Expenses form." The Department must submit this form to workflow as an attachment to the completed Travel Expense Voucher.