Peer Institution Settles for $9 Million in False Claims Act Case

Columbia University has agreed to pay $9 million in the settlement of a False Claims Act case where it was alleged that they had submitted false claims in connection with federally grant funded AIDS and HIV related work.  Further information regarding the details of the case and the settlement can be accessed at .

As the article notes, the key issues of this case were related to charges for effort against PEPFAR program funds awarded to Columbia University.   The issues alleged in this case included:

  • The effort reports were not created or verified by the individuals to whom they referenced. The individuals charged to this award had limited or no knowledge regarding what grants that their time was being charged to.  When some were questioned regarding where they had spent their time, their responses did not always match where their time had been charged/certified.
  • Columbia’s Finance Department provided information for these reports while they had limited or no knowledge of which grants the individuals actually worked on.
  • Principal Investigators certified the effort reports as correct without suitable means to verify the accuracy of the reports.  They certified large batches of reports without making any inquiry into whether the allocation of effort amongst grants was accurate.
  • Staff charged to grants were determined to have spent time working on activities that are not allowed as a direct charge on a federal grant.  For example, a Grants Manager reported spending a significant amount of her time writing competitive grant proposals.

This situation emphasizes the importance of ensuring that our federally (and otherwise) funded research projects are being administered appropriately and according to the terms with which they were provided.  When charging effort to federally funded projects, it is important to ensure that the effort is charged to the projects based upon how it is provided and that the individual providing the effort is aware of how their time is charged.  The individual who certifies the effort must be the person who provided the effort or has direct first-hand knowledge of the effort provided.  Any effort charged to a sponsored project must provide a direct benefit to that project.  Time spent on proposal preparation, departmental administration or any non-project related activities should generally not be charged to federal or other grants.  (Rare exceptions to this rule can include the ability to charge proposal preparation costs to career development (K) awards where this is specifically noted as an allowable cost.)

If you have any questions regarding effort reporting (or any other questions related to the appropriate administration of sponsored programs), please contact your OSP or OGCA representative.  OGCA offers a variety of different training options.  Information about these options can be obtained from  Information regarding effort reporting at Emory can be accessed at  Also available to respond to questions are Kerry Peluso, Associate Vice President for Research Administration, who can be reached at or (404)727-0551 or Josh Rosenberg, Director of Cost Studies, who can be reached at or (404)727-1677.


This entry was posted in ORA, OSP, RGC. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.