oversight

Review of the National Science Foundation CARES Act Spending Plan

Published by the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General on 2020-05-21.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

AT A GLANCE
Review of the National Science Foundation CARES Act Spending Plan
Report No. OIG 20-6-001
May 21, 2020

 WHY WE DID THIS REVIEW
 The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provided $76 million to NSF,
 including $75 million to support its ongoing grant response to COVID-19 and $1 million to assist in
 the administration of those grants. We conducted a review to identify whether NSF’s plan for
 expending those funds was reasonable, prudent, and met the intent of the funding objectives.

 WHAT WE REVIEWED
 We reviewed NSF’s CARES Act Spending Plan and Review Team documents, related policies and
 procedures, and additional information provided directly by NSF’s senior leadership.

 WHAT WE FOUND
 We found NSF’s plan to be reasonable, prudent, and consistent with the intent of the Act’s funding
 objectives. NSF is using existing funding mechanisms with established policies, procedures, and
 controls to disperse the funds provided by the CARES Act. This reduces the risk of misuse and helps
 ensure accountability. NSF also established a process to ensure appropriate financial controls over
 CARES Act funds by using a unique fund code. Further, NSF is using funding mechanisms that allow
 for quickly mobilizing the research community so that CARES Act funds can have a timely and
 immediate impact.

 REPORT FRAUD, WASTE, ABUSE, OR WHISTLEBLOWER REPRISAL
 •   File online report: https://www.nsf.gov/oig/report-fraud/form.jsp
 •   Anonymous Hotline: 1.800.428.2189
 •   Email: oig@nsf.gov
 •   Mail: 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22314 ATTN: OIG HOTLINE

 CONTACT US
 For further information or questions, please contact us at OIGpublicaffairs@nsf.gov or 703.292.7100.
 Follow us on Twitter at @nsfoig. Visit our website at www.nsf.gov/oig.
                    National Science Foundation • Office of Inspector General
                         2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia 22314


MEMORANDUM

DATE:                 May 21, 2020

TO:                   Teresa Grancorvitz
                      Office Head and Chief Financial Officer
                      Office of Budget, Finance and Award Management


FROM:                 Mark Bell
                      Assistant Inspector General
                      Office of Audits

SUBJECT:              Report No. OIG 20-6-001, Review of the National Science Foundation CARES
                      Act Spending Plan


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) is a wide-ranging statute
enacted on March 27, 2020, to address the health, economic, and societal impacts of the Coronavirus
Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It provides NSF with a
total of $76 million, including $75 million to support its
ongoing grant response to COVID-19 and $1 million to assist
in the administration of those grants. These funds include
Rapid Response Research (RAPID) awards and are in
addition to NSF’s existing active grant portfolio, which
totaled more than $33 billion in FY 2019. NSF developed a
plan for spending its CARES Act funds using existing
processes and funding mechanisms, and we conducted a
sufficiency review of this plan as a routine activity. We
found NSF’s plan to be reasonable, prudent, and consistent
with the intent of the Act’s funding objectives.

NSF’s Spending Plan

NSF plans to use the $76 million provided by the CARES
Act to support additional fast-track, fundamental, and
transformational research activity associated with
(1) improving the understanding of SARS-CoV-2, the
coronavirus causing COVID-19; (2) developing a
                                                                Source: NSF OIG-generated depiction of
predictive understanding of the spread of the virus; and        information from NSF
(3) enabling approaches that mitigate the negative
Additional Information

impacts of COVID-19 on public health, society, and the economy. NSF will track the CARES Act
funding by using a unique fund code. As shown in Figure 1, NSF plans to spend the $76 million as
follows:

   •   $67.25 million will be allocated for the RAPID and Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory
       Research (EAGER) funding mechanisms. RAPID is a type of proposal used when there is a
       severe urgency regarding availability of, or access to, data, facilities, or specialized equipment,
       including quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar
       unanticipated events. EAGER is a type of proposal used to support exploratory work in its
       early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches. The
       RAPID and EAGER programs have been in place since 2009, and previous awards were used
       to advance understanding of the Ebola and Zika disease outbreaks and measures to contain
       them. RAPID awards have also been used to fund research to improve responses to natural
       disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and unexpected events like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
   •   $5 million will be allocated to the Education and Human Resources account to support
       fundamental and transformational research activities that align with the three identified
       research areas.
   •   $2.75 million will be allocated to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small
       Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. This funding will be focused on the
       development and deployment of new technologies, products, processes, and services with the
       potential to positively impact the nation’s and world’s ability to respond to COVID-19.
   •   $1 million will support measures
       taken by NSF to secure ongoing
       continuity of operations during this
       period, including additional
       oversight, management, and
       reporting requirements for
       COVID-19 program funding.

NSF has already begun implementing the
spending plan and anticipates obligating
most, if not all, CARES Act funding by
early June (see Figure 2).                     Source: NSF OIG-generated depiction of information from NSF

Conclusion

As specified in the spending plan, NSF is using existing funding mechanisms with established policies,
procedures, and controls to disperse the funds provided by the CARES Act. This reduces the risk of
misuse and helps ensure accountability. NSF also established a process to ensure appropriate financial
controls over CARES Act funds by using a unique fund code. Further, NSF is using funding
mechanisms that allow for quickly mobilizing the research community so that CARES Act funds can
have a timely and immediate impact.

We find this plan to be reasonable, prudent, and consistent with the intent of the Act’s funding
objectives.




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Additional Information

Objective, Scope, & Methodology

The objective of our review was to identify whether NSF’s plan for expending CARES Act funds was
reasonable, prudent, and met the intent of the funding objectives of preventing, preparing for, and
responding to COVID-19. To accomplish our objective, we:

      •   Reviewed NSF’s CARES Act Spending Plan and Review Team documents;
      •   Evaluated NSF’s plan to identify if an executable spending strategy was established, whether that
          strategy met the intent of the legislation, and whether controls had been identified to properly
          account for the expenditure of funds;
      •   Reviewed NSF policies, procedures, and supplementary documentation related to the programs
          identified within the spending plan;
      •   Communicated all questions and comments regarding the spending plan to NSF’s senior
          leadership; and
      •   Reviewed all subsequent documentation and answers provided by NSF’s senior leadership.

We did not conduct any expenditure or control testing as part of this review.

We provided a draft of this memorandum to NSF management for review on May 19, 2020. NSF
provided us with updated information for Figure 2 of this memorandum but did not communicate any
additional comments or concerns.


cc:       Ellen Ochoa                  Victor McCrary
          Ann Bushmiller               John Veysey
          Fleming Crim                 Christina Sarris
          Rafael Cotto                 Allison Lerner
          Lisa Vonder Haar             Ken Chason
          Dan Buchtel                  Ken Lish
          Karen Scott                  Louise Nelson




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