Complete Text of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clarification of Circular A-21, Section F.6.b., including statements from May 17, 1994 and July 13, 1994:
OMB CIRCULAR A-21 - TREATMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE AND CLERICAL SALARIES
Section F.6.b. of the July 1993 revision of Circular A-21 says that the salaries of administrative and clerical staff should normally be treated as indirect costs. This section goes on to say that direct charging of these costs may be appropriate where a major project or activity explicitly budgets for administrative or clerical services and the individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity. What is the intent of this provision and under what circumstances may these costs be directly charged to sponsored agreements?
This provision is intended to establish the principle that the salaries of administrative and clerical staff should usually be treated as indirect costs, but that direct charging of these costs may be appropriate where the nature of the work performed under a particular project requires an extensive amount of administrative or clerical support which is significantly greater than the routine level of such services provided by academic departments. The costs would need to meet the general criteria for direct charging in Section D.1. [of Circular A-21] - i.e., "be identified specifically with a particular sponsored project...relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy," and the special circumstances requiring direct charging of the services would need to be justified to the satisfaction of the awarding agency in the grant application or contract proposal.
The following examples are illustrative of circumstances where direct charging the salaries of administrative of clerical staff may be appropriate.
- Large, complex programs, such as General Clinical Research Centers, Primate Centers, Program Projects, environmental research centers, engineering research centers, and other grants and contracts that entail assembling and managing teams of investigators from a number of institutions.
- Projects which involve extensive data accumulation, analysis and entry, surveying, tabulation, cataloging, searching literature, and reporting, such as epidemiological studies, clinical trials, and retrospective clinical records studies.
- Projects that require making travel and meeting arrangements for large numbers of participants, such as conferences and seminars.
- Projects whose principal focus is the preparation and production of manuals and large reports, books and monographs (excluding routine progress and technical reports).
- Projects that are geographically inaccessible to normal departmental administrative services, such as seagoing research vessels, radio astronomy projects, and other research field sites that are remote from the campus.
- Individual projects requiring project-specific database management; individualized graphics or manuscript preparation; human or animal protocol, IRB preparations and/or other project-specific regulatory protocols; and multiple project-related investigator coordination and communications.
These examples are not exhaustive nor are they intended to imply that direct charging of administrative or clerical salaries would always be appropriate for the situations illustrated in the examples. Where direct charges for administrative and clerical salaries are made, care must be exercised to assure that costs incurred for the same purpose in like circumstances are consistently treated as direct costs for all activities. This should be accomplished through a "Direct Charge Equivalent" or other mechanism that assigns the costs directly to the appropriate activities.
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