Project Set up, Project Management and Reporting
Once a funder has confirmed a research award, several administrative processes need to be followed to ensure the awarded budget is set up correctly on the College’s finance system and legal agreements are put in place with third parties as appropriate. The Principal Investigator (supported by their Department) will also need to ensure that project-specific management and governance structures are put in place to monitor scientific deliverables and progress and to manage funds and expenditure (including third party expenditure) during the lifetime of the project up to the point of project closure. Further guidance, advice and policies to support the effective setup, management and delivery of an overseas research project can be found in the sections below.
Project Set up, Project Management and Reporting Accordion
1. Ethics and Research Integrity
2. Project Management and Associated Costs
Conducting research overseas and managing administrative processes remotely or in the field can be complex and challenging. It includes a range of activities such as: conducting relevant due diligence; ensuring financial and safety aspects of the project are in place; facilitating the relationship between the Principal Investigator, Co-Investigators, researchers, third party organisation(s) and funder(s) to ensure project milestones are successfully delivered; maintaining auditable records of expenditure (e.g. copies of supplier invoices, expense claims, receipts and evidence relating to third party spend); monitoring changes in circumstances during the project, assessing the impact and taking appropriate action.
Depending on funder terms and conditions, it is strongly recommended that project management costs are included as part of the research proposal, e.g. employment of dedicated administrative support staff. Any professional staff costs that are included in the project budget should be fully justified, e.g. complex, large-scale, multi-partner etc.
If dedicated project management costs are excluded from the proposal budget, then it cannot be assumed that existing staff resources will be made available to support the research activities. Project support requirements should be carefully considered and discussed with the Department at the earliest opportunity.
3. Third Party Agreements
Collaboration or related agreements should be put in place with all third party organisations before starting the project, specifying the scope of work to be undertaken and clearly outlining the financial arrangements. Depending on the type of work being undertaken, contractual arrangements may be required with a variety of partners, third parties and service providers, including other higher education institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), overseas government agencies, industry and local contractors.
Refer to the Contracts webpage for guidance and contact your relevant Faculty Contracts team below for more information.
4. Payments to Overseas Third Parties
Many of the College's main funders require lead institutions to take responsibility for all third parties who undertake activities funded by a research grant or contract. The following guidance is designed to support the sound financial management of overseas research projects and ensure that appropriate audit evidence is retained.
a) Location of the Third Party
Consider whether the Third Party or collaborating country is subject to any restriction, sanction or embargo.
NOTE: If a country is subject to sanctions or embargoes, it may not be possible to transfer funds to them. Refer to the College’s Anti-Money Laundering Resource Centre which includes information about UK and US Sanctions Lists. There may also be local restrictions which apply to particular cities or regions within a single country.
Transferring funds to a Third Party located in a sensitive country specified in Appendix A of the Relationship Review Policy will receive additional due diligence and verification. ‘Due diligence proforma’ in Appendix B of the Policy will have to be completed and submitted to the Head of Department or equivalent, and is subject to further consideration by the College’s Scrutiny Committee.
b) New Third Parties
To reduce the risk of fraud, the College’s Accounts Payable (AP) team must independently verify the bank details provided by all new third parties (referred to as ‘suppliers’) before payments can be processed. The College’s Supplier Set-up and Payments process requires a Bank and Contact Information Form to be completed by an appropriate finance representative from the third party organisation who will then be contacted directly by AP.
c) Payment Terms
The subagreement which is put in place with the third party organisation will specify the payment terms (e.g. quarterly in arrears).
d) Audit Evidence of Expenditure
The terms of the subagreement will require the third party to retain auditable evidence of all expenditure incurred on the project and provide this at the College’s request, e.g. full transaction listings, copies of supplier invoices, receipts, expenditure-related log books etc.
e) Tax and VAT
When undertaking projects overseas, purchasing goods and services or transporting equipment overseas etc, specialist tax advice may be required. It is strongly recommended that advice is sought at the earliest opportunity to ensure that any associated tax-related costs are included in the project budget requested. More information is available on the Tax and VAT webpages.
5. Post Award Monitoring
Post Award Monitoring of Third Parties should be undertaken throughout the lifetime of the award by the Principal Investigator and project team (supported by the department) to ensure there is appropriate financial oversight of funds transferred to them and that project milestones continue to be successfully delivered. Depending on the risk rating given to a Third Party (see Due Diligence webpage), the central Research Office (RO) will also undertake assurance reviews of the due diligence process and implementation of recommended mitigating actions, and will conduct end of project Third Party relationship assessment as appropriate.
6. Third Party Disputes and Termination of Subagreements
If a research partner or subcontractor is failing to deliver the agreed scope of work, the issues and concerns should be discussed with the department and Faculty Contracts team at the earliest opportunity to agree the next steps. There are dispute resolution and termination clauses within the third party subagreement.
7. Project Reporting
Each funder will specify its own reporting requirements (both scientific and financial), including the frequency and format. The legal agreement with each third party will flow-down the funder's terms and conditions and outline the third party's reporting obligations.
For example, several funders - including National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCDO) - require grant recipients and associated research partners to publish their Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding data using the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) registry for specific research projects.