(STL.News) – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has agreed to pay the government $4,552,058.03 to resolve an overpayment resulting from errors in grant accounting procedures from January 1, 2007 through June 30, 2011, and from October 1, 2014 through March 31, 2017, U.S. Attorney Matthew G. T. Martin for the Middle District of North Carolina announced.
This settlement results from self-disclosures to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and later to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina. UNC first discovered errors in 2011, and subsequently made written self-disclosures to the United States relating to grant closeout procedures. UNC later made an additional self-disclosure relating grant accounting issues, after it implemented new financial system software. Due to these errors, the University inadvertently retained excess funds, charged salary costs to awards after the award term had ended, and retained excess cash. UNC fully cooperated with the government’s investigation of the self-disclosures, and has implemented changes to its Office of Sponsored Research to ensure future compliance.
“Our office is committed to ensuring that federal grant dollars are properly applied and accounted for,” said Matthew G.T. Martin, United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. “We appreciate UNC’s disclosure of these issues and hope this matter serves as a reminder to other institutions that receive tax dollars that they must have controls in place to ensure federal tax dollars are used as intended.”
The settlement in this matter was the result of a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina, the HHS Office of Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”), and the NIH Division of Program Integrity.
Recipients of federal awards who identify potential violations of law that may have resulted in the submission of improper claims relating to those awards should know that it is Department of Justice policy that entities or individuals that make proactive, timely, and voluntary self-disclosures will receive credit during the resolution of such matters.
In addition, recipients of HHS awards may self-disclose conduct to HHS-OIG. On July 11, 2019, HHS-OIG released new Grant Self-Disclosure Program Guidance, which is available on its website. The Program provides HHS award recipients and sub-recipients with a framework for disclosing, coordinating, evaluating, and resolving potential violations of law relating to their awards or sub-awards.