Avoiding Subaward Delays
Many factors determine the length of time SPO takes to set up a subaward. Some of these include:
- The timeliness of the Subaward Request, and the time of year it is submitted
- The completeness / correctness of the Subaward Request
- The complexity of the Prime Award terms and conditions
- The type of subaward (e.g., Multi-Campus Agreement, Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) Subagreement, long-form agreement, contract agreement, etc.)
- The type of Subrecipient (e.g., domestic vs. foreign, UC vs. non-UC, institution of higher education vs. non-profit vs. for-profit, FDP member vs. non-FDP member)
- The responsiveness of the Subrecipient
- The complexity of negotiations between UC Berkeley and the Subrecipient
SPO processes Subaward Requests in the order received. To be fair to all UC Berkeley Principal Investigators (PIs), Subaward Requests submitted as “urgent” will not necessarily be given preference over other requests submitted earlier.
Here are tips to avoid the most common delays in subaward processing.
Name the Subrecipient in your proposal
Naming a Subrecipient in the proposal means that you will have already collected the Subrecipient’s commitment form, Statement of Work, budget and budget justification needed to establish the subaward, and can move forward quickly, in requesting the Subaward, once SPO releases the Prime Award.
If you name a “to-be-determined” (TBD) Subrecipient in the proposal, try to decide which Subrecipient will fulfill that role, while awaiting the sponsor’s decision.
Then collect the Subrecipient’s commitment form, Statement of Work, budget and budget justification, so those documents are ready to go when SPO releases the Prime Award.
Take care of any pre-award and just-in-time issues
Depending on the sponsor’s requirements, and the type of Subrecipient, you may need to take steps after proposal submission, to get ready for UC Berkeley to accept the Prime Award and issue the subaward.
Review the steps to take during the pre-award and just-in-time stages of the proposal phase, and address any issues that could delay issuing the subaward.
Obtain a Mini-Audit Questionnaire from the Subrecipient
SPO uses the Mini-Audit Questionnaire to assess risk for Subrecipients that have not obtained a U.S. Federal audit. SPO will collect this from Subrecipients when needed. However, if you are able to obtain a Subrecipient’s Mini-Audit Questionnaire ahead of time and submit it with your Subaward Request, it will help expedite subaward processing.
A Mini-Audit Questionnaire will be needed from any Subrecipient that:
- Is not another UC Campus or an FDP Expanded Clearinghouse participant; and
- Has checked “No” to the “Audit Status / Fiscal Responsibility” question on their Subrecipient Commitment Form.
If you are uncertain whether to get a Mini-Audit Questionnaire from a particular Subrecipient, contact the Subaward Team, at firstname.lastname@example.org, for guidance.
Alert the Subrecipient to any required IRB or IACUC approvals
Subrecipients that will involve human subjects in their Statement of Work must obtain the appropriate Institutional Review Board (IRB) approvals, before beginning the human subjects work. Unless otherwise required by the sponsor, SPO will issue subawards before a Subrecipient obtains their IRB approvals, but the subaward will restrict human subjects work until after the Subrecipient obtains the appropriate IRB approvals. The Subrecipient must provide evidence of their IRB approvals, upon the UC Berkeley PI’s request.
Subrecipients that will use vertebrate animals in their Statement of Work must obtain the appropriate Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approvals, before SPO will issue a subaward.
You should alert the Subrecipient to request their IRB and IACUC approvals, as soon as the sponsor indicates that an award to UC Berkeley is likely.
Alert the Subrecipient to any FWA requirements
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sets policies for the protection of human subjects in research according to U.S. Federal law 45 CFR 46. This applies to all domestic and international grants. Institutions engaged in human subjects research must have an approved Federalwide Assurance (FWA), which commits them to complying with the requirements in the 45 CFR 46.
Check the Subrecipient Commitment Form to see how they responded to Question 3 (Research Subject Compliance Information). If the Subrecipient indicated human subjects will be involved in their Statement of Work, but they did not provide an FWA number on the form:
- Alert the Subrecipient that UC Berkeley will not issue them a subaward unless they have a FWA number.
- Tell the Subrecipient to obtain an FWA number through the Department of Health and Human Services Register IRBs & Obtain FWAs page.
- Ask the Subrecipient to provide an updated Subrecipient Commitment Form once they have obtained their FWA number. Include this updated form when submitting your Subaward Request to SPO.
Request your subaward/amendment in a timely manner
SPO will not automatically issue subawards, when releasing a Prime Award. Likewise, SPO will not automatically amend subawards, when releasing a Prime Award amendment.
SPO issues subawards and amendments at the request of and as directed by the UC Berkeley PI, with the help of their Research Administrator.
Stay aware of Prime Award timelines and funding increments. Submit your Subaward Request, as soon as possible after SPO releases the supporting Prime Award. Whenever possible, plan to submit your Subaward Request to SPO about 30 to 45 days before the desired effective date of the subaward transaction.
Be aware of the autumn/winter rush
Subaward transaction volume varies dramatically throughout the year, driven by sponsor award cycles and UC Berkeley faculty schedules. The autumn and winter months see a very heavy subaward transaction volume. Spring and summer transaction volume is typically lighter.
If you anticipate needing a subaward transaction during the autumn/winter months, submit your Subaward Request to SPO as early as possible. If a subaward or amendment action is due to be effective in June or July, don’t wait until September to submit the subaward request!
Always aim to submit your Subaward Request to SPO about 30 to 45 days before the desired transaction effective date.
Submit a complete and correct Subaward Request
One of the most common factors in delaying subaward processing is incomplete, incorrect or unclear Subaward Requests. Based on SPO’s experience, Subaward Requests requiring correction or clarification take three times longer to process, because SPO must contact the PI’s Department for clarification or corrected materials.
Provide the full multi-year subaward budget
If your subaward will span multiple years, it is generally best to include the full, multi-year anticipated budget in the original subaward.
In most cases, SPO obligates funding to the Subrecipient in annual increments. Having the full, multi-year anticipated budget included in the original subaward can save you time and effort when amending the subaward to obligate future-year funding, because you won’t have to provide the future-years’ budgets, unless they are changing from what was in the original subaward.
Make sure the Statement of Work and budget are readable
The Statement of Work, budget, and justification documents you provide with your Subaward Request go directly into the subaward. They must be readable by UC Berkeley and the Subrecipient.
Make sure the size, color and formatting of the subaward Statement of Work, budget and justification are large enough to be readable, even after scanning or photocopying. If the Statement of Work, budget, and justification documents are not readable, SPO will ask you to send better copies.
Be prepared to help SPO with international Subrecipients
Subawards issued to international Subrecipients often take longer to negotiate. This happens for many reasons including time differences, language barriers, and the parties’ unfamiliarity with each other’s procedures, laws and systems.
Provide SPO with as much information as possible, about international Subrecipients. Helpful information includes:
- What kind of organization they are?
- Who is the best contact(s) for SPO to correspond with?
- Have you subcontracted with them before?
Be aware that SPO has no formal means for translating foreign-language documents. If an international Subrecipient provides critical documents in a foreign language (e.g., audit reports, financial statements), SPO will need either the Subrecipient or the UC Berkeley PI to provide an English-language translation of the document, for SPO’s review.
If the Subrecipient is not responding to SPO in a timely manner, SPO may ask UC Berkeley’s PI to contact the Subrecipient’s PI, to help move things along.
Review the original subaward and prior amendments
Remember that amendments modify the original subaward and any prior amendments. Changes requested in any specific amendment must follow logically from the original subaward document and any prior amendments.When compiling an amendment request, be sure to review the original subaward document and any prior amendments in Phoebe Search to refresh your memory of the subaward’s history, including what funds were already obligated to the Subrecipient, and what budget periods were already authorized.
Make sure the Subrecipient PI is aware of subaward changes
When SPO sends the Subrecipient a new subaward or a subaward amendment with changes they are not expecting, the Subrecipient may reject it, which slows down processing time.
Talk with the Subrecipient PI, before submitting your Subaward Request, to ensure that they understand and have agreed to any changes made to the subaward. This is especially important when subaward amendments include budget or Statement of Work changes.
Explain any unusual circumstances related to the subaward or amendment
A typical new subaward will provide the Subrecipient its first year’s funding for a 12-month authorized performance period, during which the Subrecipient will perform a single Statement of Work.
A typical subaward amendment will provide the Subrecipient with incremental annual funding for an additional 12-month authorized performance period, during which the Subrecipient will continue to perform the single Statement of Work.
Use the Comments field in your Subaward Request to provide a brief explanation of any unusual circumstances or complex transactions. Remember that the more information you provide up front, the less chance SPO will need to contact you for clarification.
Be responsive to SPO during subaward negotiation
If a Subrecipient asks to change the terms in the subaward, SPO will negotiate revised terms that are mutually acceptable. SPO may need to contact the UC Berkeley PI or their Research Administrator, during such negotiations.
Respond in a timely manner to any questions from SPO about subaward negotiations. If the Subrecipient has requested a change that you cannot accommodate, let SPO know what is acceptable to you, so we can offer an alternative to the Subrecipient.
SPO will usually act as intermediary between the Subrecipient and the UC Berkeley PI during subaward negotiation. However, if needed to expedite the negotiations, SPO may ask you to correspond directly with your counterpart at the Subrecipient institution. In such instances, SPO will wait for you to confirm what was decided between you and your Subrecipient counterpart. When this happens, be sure to follow up with SPO as soon as possible after finalizing decisions with the Subrecipient.
If you have questions, please contact the Subaward Team at email@example.com. If you have a suggestion on how we might improve SPO’s subaward services, please drop it in the Subaward Suggestion Box.
On this page
- Name the Subrecipient in your proposal
- Take care of any pre-award and just-in-time issues
- Obtain a Mini-Audit Questionnaire from the Subrecipient
- Alert the Subrecipient to any required IRB or IACUC approvals
- Alert the Subrecipient to any FWA requirements
- Request your subaward/amendment in a timely manner
- Be aware of the autumn/winter rush
- Submit a complete and correct Subaward Request
- Provide the full multi-year subaward budget
- Make sure the Statement of Work and budget are readable
- Review the original subaward and prior amendments
- Make sure the Subrecipient PI is aware of subaward changes
- Explain any unusual circumstances related to the subaward or amendment
- Be responsive to SPO during subaward negotiation