Ultimately, a project must be properly concluded and closed out, after full implementation, with strict adherence to the timelines and Gantt chart approved at the beginning of the project. There are important considerations to ensure that a project is properly terminated.
A project close-out, in its simplest form, involves key obligations for the project team and the institution to fulfil. These include a final narrative (or technical report) and (b) a comprehensive financial report (accompanied with audited receipts). Other considerations could include reporting all inventions, copyright or patents arising from the study.
Project close-out procedures
These may vary by the terms & conditions, and policies of each granting agency. Non–compliance with project close-out regulations (or requirements) could lead to severe penalties to the institution. Such penalties could include:
- A granting agency withholding fresh (new) grants or
- Suspending payments for other (ongoing or future) university projects funded by the granting agency.
For the preparation of the final project narrative (or technical report), the PI and team has the full responsibility. For the final project financial report, the tradition in many institutions abroad is for the Finance Office (e.g. Grants and Agency unit of OAU Bursary) to prepare the financial report, for the PI and team to review and finalize. Currently in OAU, the responsibility or obligation of doing both reports rests with the PI and the study team. However, for the financial report, the Grants and Agency section of the Bursary provides detailed account summaries of all expenditure, from the inception of the project to completion. Where required, the Unit follows the specific spreadsheet format presented by a granting agency when presenting a financial report.
Miscellaneous issues in project close-out include reports on likely commercializable products that resulted from the funded project. These include patents, inventions, etc. Procedures for reporting these are usually spelt out in the terms and conditions of the contract agreement documents.
Other sundry issues are data protection/ownership, publication in open access Journals, use or disposal of project assets after close-out. Again, in many instances, these details are documented in many project contract documents, as well as in the University Research Policy.
Occasionally a “No Cost Extension” request may be made. The period of extension enables the PI and research team extra time to complete or finalize all the project tasks and activities, at no extra cost to the funding agencies. In summary, strict adherence to reporting and project close-out guidelines are critical issues. Penalties could include any or all of the following:
- Endangerment of new grant awards to the University, through institutional blacklisting,
- Suspension of funding on other projects funded by the same granting agency including current (ongoing) and future projects.
- Withholding of the last tranche of funds,
- Dented image with other granting agencies who have links or connections with a particular agency implementing the current project.
Independent financial audit of the project accounts is an occasional requirement of some granting agencies including the European Union. Abinitio, from project inception, an external (global) auditing firm is designated to scrutinize all accounts and expenditures, before funds can be released for a new phase or at project close-out. The report from this independent external Auditor is a key determinant of continuous funding or successful close-out of the project.
Discoveries, inventions and patents arising from a project are channeled to the Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Office (IPTTO) of the Central Office of Research (COR) for subsequent processing, in compliance with the guidelines in the project agreement contract. Details are contained in the section on Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer (IPTTO).
6.3 Disposition of research Assets
This follows the requirements and specification of the granting agency, as well as the University Research Policy. A common trend globally is that research assets from a funded research become the property of the university.