The last step in a grant or contract's life cycle is project closeout. Timely submission to the sponsor of all required technical, financial, and administrative reports is the key to any successful closeout. For example, many sponsoring agencies will not make final payments on awards until the project has met its deliverables by issue of the final technical report. When a project is 60 days from completion, the PI will receive a 60-day closeout notification from OSP. This notice triggers a series of actions that need to be taken by the PI and post-award administrator to complete award closeout.
The 60-Day Closeout Notification
When a project is 60 days from completion, OSP’s internal close-out system sends the PI an automated email. This email asks the PI` to clarify whether the project is, in fact, ending, or if a longer period of performance is needed or has been requested. PIs can choose from the following options within the close-out system:
- A No-Cost Time Extension needs to be requested from the sponsor
- A Continuation Proposal was submitted through the pre-award office
- The Project Period has not Expired and continuation of the project will be approved by the sponsor through incremental funding
- The Project Is Ending and will be completed by the date shown on the notice and the final deliverable will be submitted to the sponsor as scheduled. (NOTE: Choosing this option will direct you to our close-out questionnaire.)
No-Cost Time Extensions
While sponsors expect the PI to complete projects and deliverables by the stipulated end date of an award, occasionally PIs need more time. A no-cost time extension gives the PI time to complete the scope and objectives of the project and exceed the period of performance without requesting additional funds from the sponsor. Although these requests may NOT be made for the sole purpose of spending down the remaining balance of an award, a PI may continue to spend remaining funds during the no-cost time extension period unless the sponsor indicates otherwise. No-cost time extensions should be submitted to your post-award administrator in writing or in a format as desired by the sponsor. A no-cost time extension should address:
- The length of time for which the extension is being requested.
- A justification for the extension request.
- A brief statement as to the progress and work remaining to be completed.
Federal sponsors do not consider remaining unobligated funds at the expiration of the award as sufficient justification for an extension of time.
Continuing a Project While Waiting for Additional Funding
In instances where a sponsor has indicated that an existing project’s time will be extended and/or the budget will be increased but the arrival or execution of the award is delayed, a PI may request a Letter of Guarantee (LOG).
A LOG is a way to establish a fund number on imminent but pending awards. To establish a fund using a LOG, an authorized official from the PIs department sends a LOG request to his/her post-award administrator (click here for a sample request). In requesting a LOG, the department guarantees the funds by providing an overhead account number that can be used in the event that the modification is never fully executed. The fund number used in the LOG for guarantee should have a sufficient balance to cover the LOG budget. LOGs should be established with the OSP-approved proposal budget and not exceed 90 days of the period of performance. If at the end of the 90 days the PI/Department requests an additional time extension, then another LOG would need to be submitted. LOGs that exceed the 90-day timeframe must be approved by the Assistant VP for Sponsored Programs.
Typically during closeout, post-award administrators will prepare and submit any fiscal or administrative documents required and work with any auditors to document costs or to answer any outstanding questions. PIs are responsible for preparing and submitting the final technical report and for providing his/her post-award administrator with fiscal or administrative information as required or requested. PIs should review award documents carefully so that they know what reports are required and when they are due to fully complete their obligations to sponsors Final reports for most federally funded grants and contracts are due no later than 90-calendar days after the expiration date of the award. For non-federal awards (i.e., state, industry, non-profits) the closing procedures will vary depending on the policies of the sponsor. Most non-federal awards have a shorter timeframe (less than 90 days) in which to submit the final report.
Common Sponsor Reporting Requirements
Final Technical Report
The Project's Principal Investigator is responsible for timely submission of final technical reports. Specific sponsor requirements for the technical reports are usually defined in the award package.
Final Fiscal Report
The final fiscal report is generally due within 60-90 days after the expiration date of the award and in most cases is completed by the post-award administrator. The PI should ensure that all costs have been properly reported and posted to the account fund.
Final Report of Inventions
The final report of inventions should include all inventions which were conceived or first actually reduced to practice during the performance of the work. Many sponsors require reports about inventions made during the conduct of research to ensure proper disclosure.
Final Property Report
Final property reports account for all excess supplies left on hand after the completion of a project. While most non-federal grants and contracts do not require final property reports, federal projects will. Your post-award administrator will work with staff from The Controller’s Office to produce this report.
If equipment was purchased with funds from the award, your post-award administrator will request that title be transferred to the university. Generally, the university has sole ownership of all equipment acquired regardless of the funding source or method of acquisition. See Policy 3591 for a detailed description of equipment ownership and transfer.
Final Posting of Costs
The PI and departmental business managers must ensure that all costs have been posted to the proper accounts by the sponsor’s deadline. Please check with your post-award administrator to ensure that all costs have posted on time. If there will be a delay in posting, please work with your post-award administrator to ensure that all costs are accurately reported. It is essential that any costs that are over the awarded amount be removed as soon as possible to clear out all overdrafts.
Considerations for Multi-Year Awards
For multi-year awards, PIs receive annual increments of funding throughout the life of the project rather than the entire value of the award upfront. The amount of funding available in each of the annual increments can vary depending on the sponsor’s actual available funds, especially for federal sponsors, whose organizations are subject to the federal budgeting process. If a PI’s annual award from a sponsor is less than what was originally proposed, then the PI should work with their post-award administrator to revise and reduce the proposed annual budget.
Whether a project can carry-forward remaining balances from one year to subsequent years varies widely by sponsor. If a project is incrementally funded, it is generally the case that the funds from a previous increment can be used within all subsequent periods. However, this is not universally the case. Some project increments are mandated to be discrete units, tracked and accounted for separately. The funds from these previous increments will not be available during successive periods. In these cases, it is sometimes possible to acquire approval for carry-forward and to allow one or more increments to remain available for more than one funding period. Please work with your post-award administrator to request, document, and process any carry-forward balances.
Remaining Award Balances
Cost-reimbursable awards provide for payment of allowable incurred costs, to the extent prescribed in the award document. These awards develop an estimate of total cost for the purpose of obligating funds and establishing a ceiling that the contractor may not exceed (except at its own risk) without the approval of the sponsoring agency. Because cost-reimbursable awards pay incurred costs only, any balance left on a cost-reimbursable award will be returned to the sponsor.
A firm-fixed-price award (usually a contract) provides for a price that is not subject to any adjustment on the basis of the contractor’s cost experience in performing the scope of work. This award type places upon the contractor maximum risk and full responsibility for all costs and resulting profit or loss. It provides maximum incentive for the contractor to control costs and perform effectively and imposes a minimum administrative burden upon the contracting parties. Virginia Tech PIs have access to any unexpended balance on a fixed price contract. Once all revenue has been received from the sponsor; all residual direct revenue is transferred to a residual account. This can be transferred into a pre-existing residual account or to a new account established by OSP by completing a Fixed Price Residual Request Form.
Audits of OSP practices are conducted regularly by various internal and external organizations and are designed to ensure that Virginia Tech, as an institution, is a responsible steward that can effectively manage sponsored projects. Preparing for an audit should begin at the proposal stage and continue throughout the life of a project through careful routine monitoring of technical and budgetary performance.
Sponsor audits can take various forms. Some sponsors prefer more formal site visits while others are satisfied with less formal desk audits. In either case, when being audited, Virginia Tech is required to document and justify any cost charged to a project. If, as a PI or departmental business manager, you receive requests from OSP regarding backup documentation for a project file, particularly if the request relates to an audit, please provide the documentation as quickly as possible.
Federal guidelines state that financial records of research projects must be kept for 7 years. Any active or inactive project that is being or has been performed within the last 7 years is subject to audit, which includes timely and reasonable access to any project personnel for the purpose of interview and discussion related to the project.