Univ. implements accounting changes

More than four months after a sweeping federal investigation into Yale’s grant management came to light, the University is wrapping up the first stage of its attempt to improve administration of federal funds.

Administrators working with a management consulting group launched a “100-Day Plan” over the summer to accelerate a year-old effort to restructure the University’s grant accounting practices. The plan — initiated Aug. 1 in response to a series of federal subpoenas requesting thousands of pages of documents related to government funding — officially ends Wednesday, Nov. 8. Administrators said they are pleased with their progress so far, but the work of improving Yale’s research grant management will continue for months, if not years.

University President Richard Levin said the changes have picked up speed since three federal agencies issued subpoenas in late June.

“We had set in motion some efforts to improve our grant management prior to our subpoena this summer,” he said. “A lot of it is accelerated now.”

The plan consists of ten broad initiatives — dealing with matters such as cost reporting, equipment purchasing and staff training — aimed at streamlining grant accounting procedures and making grant spending more transparent. Progress has been made on each of the ten projects but will continue after the “symbolic” end of the 100 days next week, Associate Vice President for Research Administration Andrew Rudczynski said.

“We need to be looking at the future,” he said. “We don’t have a fancy name for it, but it’s a continuation of [the 100-Day Plan].”

The Office of Research Administration, which was created in July, is now coordinating the 100-Day Plan. The Huron Consulting Group, which has been reviewing Yale’s grant accounting at the University’s request for more than a year, recommended creating the office last February — before the 100-Day Plan was conceived, Rudczynski said. The new office will help improve grant management, he said.

“Yale didn’t have a single reporting structure,” he said. “It’s easier for faculty and the business offices if you make sure you do not have different things happening in different parts of the University.”

Rudczynski is one of only a handful of administrators who report directly to both the provost and vice president for finance and administration. He said he has been meeting with administrators and faculty from across the university, and will have more meetings in the next few days to evaluate the progress made under the 100-Day Plan.

Stephen Murphy, who is interim director of research administration and has been responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the Plan, said the University’s president, provost and vice presidents developed and approved the plan.

Some of the changes proposed under the 100-Day Plan are already being implemented, Rudczynski said. Starting this past Monday, no “cost-transfers” are exempt from central review, he said. In a cost-transfer, salaries, maintenance costs or other expenditures that were originally paid for by the University or a federal grant are instead charged to a different federal grant. Previously, cost-transfers had to exceed a threshold before they had to be reviewed.

In another change, labs will have to route all equipment and supply orders through a single online system called SciQuest as of January 1, 2007. The system is in place now, and individual departments are implementing its use at different paces, Rudczynski said. Over the next six to 12 months Yale will phase out paper-based grant reporting, he said.

Business managers are currently being trained in the new procedures, and faculty members will have mandatory grant administration training by the end of the semester, Rudczynski said.

The General Counsel’s Office is still coordinating Yale’s response to the federal investigation. Representatives from the office did not return requests for comment on the status of this response.

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