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House Oversight Committee Seeks Study of NIH Indirect Costs
June 28, 2013—House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) June 24 requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to “review NIH’s indirect costs and its processes for overseeing the validity of its indirect cost reimbursements to grant recipients.”
Cosigned by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, the letter states, “Given the fiscally constrained environment, ensuring efficient and effective use of federal funding is vital.”
“There has been debate over what portion of indirect costs should be the responsibility of the government and what portion should be the responsibility of the research institution receiving a grant,” the letter notes, adding that “some nonprofit foundations who also support research exclude indirect costs from allowable reimbursable expenses.”
The letter also points out that previous GAO work on grants provided by the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services “identified weaknesses in oversight processes that could make the government vulnerable to making improper payments or to waste or abuse.”
The letter asks GAO to:
- Compare NIH’s policies and indirect cost reimbursement rates to other funding institutions, including nonprofit foundations;
- Asses the dollar value and proportion of NIH’s funding that goes to indirect costs and how this has changed over time;
- Identify the control NIH uses to validate indirect costs and determine to what extent these controls are sufficient to prevent and detect improper payments, waste, or abuse; and
- Identify the specific formulas used by NIH for different rates for indirect costs between institutions and describe what subjective and objective measures are used as part of those formulas.
GAO already is conducting a study of NIH indirect costs requested by Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.
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