The post-award sponsored project account activation general ledger process commences in Sponsored Projects Accounting.
A sponsored project account is activated by Sponsored Projects Accounting in the general ledger system of the University of Pittsburgh upon receipt of a properly approved notice of award (NOA) or other similar grant or contract award (sponsored project) agreement. A properly approved notice of award will be in written form, contain the pertinent terms and conditions of a sponsored project award and reflect the signatures of the appropriate representatives of the sponsoring agency and the Authorized Institutional Official of the University of Pittsburgh, who is the Vice Chancellor for Research Operations of the Office of Research.
Sponsored project NOAs are never verbal and no verbal agreement will be accepted by Sponsored Projects Accounting or the Office of Research from a sponsor or from a Faculty member. A notice of award that is not in writing, does not contain the proper terms and conditions of a properly negotiated sponsored project, and is not signed by responsible representatives of the sponsoring agency and the University will be rejected by the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects Accounting.
Each notice of award is assigned an “award” or “AWD” number in PERIS by the Office of Research that serves as an internal tracking number linking the original award proposal to the notice of award. The University’s Office of Research forwards the following executed documents to Sponsored Project Accounting electronically for each individual “AWD” number:
Reference the Office of Research’s PERIS web site. (See the Resources section of our website for the applicable link to the Office of Research’s web site.)
New Accounts - The NOA and related University forms are delivered electronically by the Office of Research to Sponsored Projects Accounting and are distributed to the appropriate Sponsored Projects Accountant based upon department assignments. The Sponsored Projects Accountant reviews the NOA and related documents. Any questions are directed to the responsible Office of Research Grants Officer and/or the Department Administrator for sponsored projects at the department. Once it is determined that the appropriate paperwork is complete and accurate, a sponsored project account number will be activated in the University’s general ledger system. Sponsored Projects Accounting strives to activate new accounts within 72 hours from the time all appropriate paperwork and related information is complete and made available to us by the Office of Research and the department.
Subaccounts - For proper accounting and administration of the account, sponsored projects that require the expertise of one or more University Departments/PIs to accomplish the subject work scope must have separate sponsored project subaccounts that are linked to the master sponsored project account received by the lead PI. This is because a sponsored project account can only be assigned to one University Department at a time due to the University’s Departmental budget structure. Accordingly, separate subaccounts require separate sponsored project and budget information input through PERIS for each of the required separate subaccounts that reconcile to the master account and the NOA. The Department Administrator responsible for the master account will be responsible for ensuring that the summation of all master and subaccount documentation reconciles to the budgetary total of the sponsor’s NOA.
Subaccounts can also be used to separately identify and track varying aspects of sponsored project accounting and administration such as:
- Fixed price components of an award that is predominantly cost reimbursable or vice versa
- Task orders, milestones and other operating aspects of an award dictated by the NOA
- Multiple F&A cost rates applicable to more than one direct cost base of application
- Transfer of a Principal Investigator from one University department to another after an award is received by the University
- Matching of program income with the expenses necessary to generate the program income
- Interest income and related expense
Early Accounts – An early account is a sponsored project account that is requested and internally approved prior to receipt of a properly executed NOA from a sponsor. The early account enables the timely assignment of faculty and staff effort through the University’s effort reporting system as well as the timely recording of non-salary project related costs. Early account numbers are appropriate in a variety of circumstances:
Certain agencies allow 90 day pre-award spending at the department’s discretion to facilitate award performance
Certain agencies have a time-consuming award approval process that delays receiving a signed agreement in a timely manner, frequently to a time beyond the start date of the project
An early account number is an internal accounting control which is integral to a proper system of internal controls over sponsored projects as it allows for proper and timely sponsored project financial management. To request an early sponsored project account number, the Department needs to initiate the Early Account Request Form (EAR) through the Office of Research. Detailed information also has to be provided to assure that appropriate funding is going to be awarded by the designated agency. The Office of Research will verify this information with the agency. The Office of Research will forward the appropriate documentation to Sponsored Projects Accounting for early account activation in the financial system consistent with new projects. Once the official NOA is received, previously activated sponsored project attributes are verified and variations are corrected, including budget variations. An early account cannot remain an early account indefinitely. Unless a NOA is in place, negotiated and signed by the sponsor and the University, the University cannot invoice the sponsor because there is no agreement in place to pay against. Accordingly, the Department Administrator, the PI, the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects Accounting must execute their responsibilities timely in order for a NOA to replace the early account and a permanent account be activated in its place. Finally, it should be noted that the requesting department assumes all financial risk with respect to costs incurred and recorded to an early account in the event the NOA is never received by the University.
While early accounts can be obtained on grants, they cannot be obtained on contracts. This is due to the fact that while schools and departments can accept financial risk for their work under the early account they cannot be subject to the financial and other risks that can arise in other areas that are monitored and negotiated centrally at the University. These risk areas can include but are not limited to areas such as contract law, indemnification, warranties, publishing, ownership of data, export control, licensing and intellectual property, pre-award costs, effort reporting, organizational conflict of interest, IT security, cost transfers, etc. that can arise due to the lack of a signed contract that do not exist under a grant when it is covered by the NIH, NSF and other federal and non-federal grant regulations and guidelines.
Account Number Assignment – The sponsored project account number assigned by Research Accounting is the six digit University project number which appears in the project field in the University’s PRISM account number structure. The first two digits of the project number represent the sponsoring agency designation for quick identification of certain sponsors as follows:
01XXXX National Science Foundation
07XXXX Department of Education (letter of credit only)
1XXXXX Department of Health and Human Services (letter of credit only)
Includes the National Institute of Health (NIH)
40XXXX Other Federal Agencies
Includes agencies that require invoicing and federal pass-through funds received from other Universities, companies, and state and local governments
60XXXX State and Local Government Agencies
Excludes federal pass-through funds
70XXXX Private Companies and Foundations
Includes cost reimbursable and fixed price pharmaceutical company sponsored project awards
That said, the assignment of project numbers should not be solely relied upon to identify the sponsoring agency designation. Sometimes information becomes available after the activation process is complete that would change the nature of an account designation (such as a change in federal pass-through determination). In these instances, account numbers are not changed from the initial designation as a courtesy to University PIs and to avoid mass cost transfers.
Department Notification of Project Numbers – Once the sponsored project accounts are activated, an automated overnight import process occurs for all projects that have been activated that day. These projects are posted every morning to the PRISM general ledger system and are then accessible by the Department for accounting for sponsored project costs.
A Sponsored Projects Account Activation Report (RPAR105) generates automatically the day following activation. A copy of this report is distributed electronically via PRISM by Sponsored Projects Accounting to the Department Administrator designated by the Department. All activations are reviewed by Sponsored Projects Accounting. Department Administrators are asked to review all the information on the activation per the RPAR105 and contact the Sponsored Projects Accountant assigned to the Department with any questions, errors or discrepancies noted by the Department that require correction. Timely verification of the Sponsored Projects Account Activation Reports by the performing Department is an important internal control to ensure that accounts are activated properly in our general ledger.
PRISM Access to Sponsored Projects Account Activation Reports
Click on the Instructions for Account Activation Inquiry Screen and Sponsored Projects Attribute Definitions to read the instructions and definitions for the Sponsored Projects Account Activation Reports.
Prior day’s Sponsored Projects Account Activation Reports will be available to Departments the following day by logging on to PRISM and querying that day’s activations. To access your Activation Reports electronically, complete the referenced PRISM Access Information Form and add the RPA Account Activation Inquiry as a new PRISM responsibility. (RPA is the Research Proposal and Accounting system that is the PRISM general ledger subsystem for sponsored projects.) Once complete, the form should be returned to Financial Information Systems (FIS, within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer) as indicated in the instructions to the form. The form will take less than a week to process depending on workloads.
Departments are responsible for determining who is authorized to have PRISM access to Sponsored Projects Account Activation Reports. This PRISM responsibility will not be determined or monitored by Sponsored Projects Accounting. Departments who centralize or otherwise require access to multiple department’s Activation Reports can request the necessary access by listing the department numbers in the Additional Comments section of the PRISM access form.
Note that the browser you use must be compatible with PRISM desktop requirements: https://www.cfo.pitt.edu/prism/documents/Desktop%20Requirements%20R12%201-9-13.pdf.
If you are unable to view the PDF report, contact the PRISM Help Desk at (412) 624-4357 for assistance.
Sponsored Project Attributes – Sponsored Projects Accounting establishes a number of sponsored project account attributes in the University’s sponsored project general ledger database to ensure responsible accounting, administration and reporting in accordance with applicable sponsoring agency regulations and requirements as well as internal and external University requirements. Click on the Sponsored Projects Attribute Definitions to view these attributes and their definitions.