At any given time, NIH staff are monitoring nearly 50,000 active grant awards. This monitoring happens throughout the grant life cycle, including once the award is over. Just as we strive to award meritorious grants as quickly as we can, it is equally important for us to ensure grant awards are taken off the books in a timely manner. A grant that slips past its closeout due date is costly and time consuming.
NIH has for years highlighted the impact of discrepancies between final financial reports for grant closeout and the importance of timely closeout. Ideally, we engage in a bilateral closeout with our awardees at the end of an award as described in Section 8.6 of the NIH Grants Policy Statement. This means that the awardee submits acceptable final research progress reports, expenditure reports, cash transaction reports, and invention reports within the required timeframe.
Most NIH grants are closed in a timely manner as required. But, unfortunately, too many grants have payment accounts that remain open beyond the time required for closeout. For each of these grants, we, and by proxy the taxpayer, pays a fee to keep the accounts in the Payment Management System open. This is money better directed elsewhere. We have taken steps to remedy the situation.
NIH recently issued NIH Guide notice (NOT-OD-18-107) alerting the community that we are now strengthening enforcement of the longstanding closeout requirements. The notice informs the community that, in accordance with the Grants Oversight and New Efficiency (GONE) Act and HHS policy, NIH will initiate unilateral closeout—i.e. closeout without receipt of acceptable final reports—for all awards that fail to meet closeout requirements within 120 calendar days.
We can see that this initiative is paying off—as NIH unilaterally closed a backlog of over 5,000 grant payment accounts over the last year.
Occasionally, awardees may have questions on the closeout process or need more time to get their affairs in order. We understand that. In cases seeking an extension past the 120 days, awardees may submit a request for more time from the funding NIH Institute or Center.
Failing to meet the standard closeout requirements may adversely affect future funding decisions. Failure to correct recurring reporting problems may cause NIH to take one or more actions that may include, but are not limited to, corrective actions, withholding of further awards, suspension or termination.
We seek your continued support in managing this important grant function, as scientific and financial monitoring are key components of our role as responsible stewards of taxpayer funds.