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NIH Postaward Grant Administration and Oversight Could Be Improved


Effective oversight of grant funds is crucial to the success of programs designed to improve public health and well-being; however, the Inspector General consistently identifies grants management as one of the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) top challenges, noting weaknesses in the oversight of grantees. Within HHS, NIH is the largest Federal funder of health research and development, awarding $21 billion in extramural grants during fiscal year (FY) 2014. This evaluation assessed NIH's postaward administration and oversight.


We used NIH's electronic storage system for grant files to review a random sample of 100 NIH grant files from new and continuing extramural research awards made in FY 2011. We also collected and reviewed information from NIH staff regarding oversight of postaward administration requirements.


NIH grant files were largely complete, but our review found weaknesses in the oversight of grantee progress during the life of the grants. Specifically, we found weaknesses in NIH's review of progress reports. NIH approved 13 percent of awards for funding despite the fact that the awardee did not provide required information regarding its progress towards project objectives. NIH awarded $7.2 million to four awardees that reported not meeting established goals or removing a goal. Although NIH policy requires program staff to determine whether awardee progress towards stated goals is satisfactory or not satisfactory, it does not require a written statement to support those determinations.


We recommend that NIH (1) confirm that grants management staff ensure timely submission of required reports from awardees, and (2) revise the NIH Policy Manual and Award Worksheet Report to require a brief narrative documenting awardee progress and whether any change in research goals may influence continued funding. NIH concurred with both recommendations.