Florida State, which is still disputing the findings, is far from the only university to feel the sting of a federal audit in recent years. The flood of research money from the 2009 federal stimulus act and the growing federal deficit have increased demands for accountability among recipients of taxpayer dollars.
But faculty members and administrators say the audits and investigations are costly and burdensome. On top of the already complex and stringent rules on federally sponsored research, they say, the financial reporting requirements on grants are a distraction from scientific work. ...
A 2011 audit of 359 expenses for grants to Ohio State University by the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that the institution had misreported just $2,100. The inspector general said Ohio State should credit that amount to other grant expenses. ...
The kinds of errors that are being uncovered in audits underscore the complexity of the rules of federal research spending. In reporting how they spend federal grants, researchers have to account for the amount of their salary that comes from the grant—called "effort reporting"—and figure out which costs of supplies and equipment are directly related to the research and can be paid for with grant dollars. Those distinctions are not always clear.
In any 15 minute time period I tend to work on at least 3 different things. Increase the time and the activities also increase. Effort reporting? You want me to write down my stinking effort on any one thing?
This also strikes a nerve concerning the universities' relationship with the state legislatures. The legislatures generally think that professors are lazy and good-for-nothing. I would argue that is too broad of a statement. Some professors are lazy, most are not. But how do you know? The legislature should count things that are easy to measure, professorial outputs (semester credit hours, publications, etc), and not inputs which are difficult to measure.
On the other hand, I understand the theory of regulation. If there were no monitoring and enforcement, the rate of violations would climb.
*I've never had a million dollar grant. If you add them all up, include cost-share and adjust to 2012 dollars, maybe. But then, my slice of that is always small since all I do is run regressions (and field work, but that would be sure to draw the attention of the auditors).