Your Role in Financial Management

PIs have fiscal responsibility for project expenditures. This section reviews the elements of  that responsibility, as well as tools and reports to support your decision-making.

Management of Project Expenditures

To authorize the expenditure of funds to be charged directly to sponsored projects, the originating department must assure that:

  • the estimated charge is reasonable and necessary
  • the expenditure is allowable by the funding source and, if charged to a federally-funded project, by OMB Circular A-21 or the Uniform Guidance
  • the expenditure is allocable to the project, i.e., provides benefit to the project
  • the funds are available within the authorized award amount and funding limitations
  • the justification for the expenditure is documented
  • the method of allocation of costs is appropriate and documented
  • the charge is coded with the correct Expenditure Type and charged to the correct Project-Task-Award (PTA)
  • the charge has been processed through the appropriate University system

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Communication with the Sponsor

Sponsoring agencies encourage communication between program officers and PI/PDs on the progress of projects supported by them as well as on project changes.

Stanford policy requires the PI to communicate through the Institutional Official prior to making a change to any of the following:

Objectives, Scope, or Methodology

Significant changes in methods or procedures. The phenomena approved or the objectives of the project stated in the proposal should not be changed without prior sponsor approval. Changes may be required in the event there are problems, delays or adverse conditions that will materially affect the ability to attain the objectives of the project or to meet such time schedules as may have been proposed.

PI/PD, co-PI/co-PD Effort on the Project

If the PI/PD or co-PI/co-PD plans to, or becomes aware that he/she will devote substantially less effort (a reduction of 25% or more in time) to the project than anticipated in the approved proposal.

Long-Term Absence of PI/PD or co-PI/co-PD

The Uniform Guidance recognizes that a PI can be absent from campus and remain engaged in the project. Prior approval from federal awarding agencies must be obtained for the following program or budget-related reasons:

  • change in scope or objective of the project or change in a key person identified in the grant application
  • disengagement from the project for more than 3 months
  • a 25% reduction in committed time


As the PI I am is working in New Zealand on coral reef research as part of the statement of work.  I will be absent from the Stanford Campus but remain engaged in the research project.

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Subaward Management

PI Must Review Technical Performance

Any unusual or unforeseen items should be investigated and related documentation should be retained in the department’s files. All concerns about technical performance must be addressed by the PI and communicated with the subawardee.  In some cases, subaward terms may require specified deliverables in addition to, or in lieu of, technical reports.

PIs Must Certify All Invoices

Review of invoices and expenses-to-budget-to-performance must be done for all  subawards. The subrecipient’s invoices showing both current period and cumulative expenses-to-budget are generally required. Department grant administrators should compare subrecipient’s invoices to established subaward budgets.

The Stanford PI’s signature on the invoice is required to certify that he/she approves payment of the invoice, attests that the charges appear reasonable and that progress to date on the subaward is satisfactory and in keeping with the statement of work.

Subaward invoices require the following statement to accompany the PI’s signature: 

“In signing below I approve payment of this invoice and attest that the charges appear reasonable, and progress to date on this project is satisfactory and in keeping with the statement of work.”

Question/Clarify Questionable Charges

Clarification of invoiced charges should be requested by department grant administrators for explanations of any unusual, miscellaneous, apparently excessive or other charges invoiced by the subrecipient. If the explanations are not sufficient to render a prudent judgment on the allowability of the cost, and if the terms of the subaward permit, department grant administrators may request detailed justifications from subrecipient. Department grant administrators may also periodically request, if the terms of the subcontract permit, particularly from high-risk subrecipients, detailed support for selected invoiced charges to verify their appropriateness and reasonableness.

On-Site Visits

On-site visits are a discretionary monitoring procedure. On-site visits conducted by the PI to evaluate both compliance with the scientific objectives of the project and the appropriateness of the subrecipient’s administrative systems, processes, and charges should be documented via correspondence, meeting notes, trip reports, etc. and retained on file.


Discretionary audits of a subrecipient is an acceptable monitoring procedure under federal regulations, and all of the University's cost-reimbursement subaward agreements contain "right-to-audit" clauses. Formal audits are performed infrequently, however, and departments should contact Stanford's Internal Audit Department before initiating discretionary audits.

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Cost Transfers

Stanford allows timely cost transfers involving sponsored PTAs in the following circumstances:

  • error correction
  • transfers between tasks of the same sponsored project
  • disallowed costs
  • clearing an overdraft at the end of a project


Cost transfers that represent corrections of errors should be completed within three months of when the error is discovered, and no later than six months after the expense is posted to an award. Errors found during the required monthly expenditure statement review process should be corrected upon discovery. The six month deadline allows one month to correct any errors discovered by PIs during the certification process. If incorrect charges are discovered after certification, they must always be transferred off regardless of age. Transfers onto sponsored PTAs after six months are generally not allowed and must be transferred to a cost-sharing PTA unless the expense also benefited a non-sponsored award, in which case it can be transferred to the other benefiting non-sponsored account.

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Monthly Review of Expenditure Statements

Monthly Expenditure Statements are the official record of project expenses and the basis for cost reimbursements to Stanford.

Expenditure Statements for sponsored project and cost sharing accounts must be reviewed each month by a knowledgeable individual, i.e., the Principal Investigator or designee, so that adjustments can be made in a timely manner and rates of expenditures can be monitored to assure availability of funds. This review is documented by means of a signature on the Quarterly Expenditure Review and Certification Report, RM3 149.

Any questionable charges must be brought promptly to the PI's attention and, if needed, corrected by an appropriate transfer. Transfers should be initiated as soon as possible after a need has been identified. Whenever expenses are moved to or between sponsored accounts, the PI must assure that the project which ultimately pays the expense is the project which benefited from that expense, and that there is adequate documentation to support the appropriateness of the transaction. Procedures governing transfers of expense are defined in RPH 15.8: Cost Transfer Policy for Sponsored Projects.

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Quarterly Review and Certification by the Principal Investigator

The PI has overall responsibility for the technical and fiscal management of a sponsored project. This includes the management of the project within funding limitations, adherence to reporting requirements and assurance that the sponsor will be notified when significant conditions related to project status change. While responsibility for the day-to-day management of project finances may be delegated to administrative or other staff, accountability for compliance with Stanford policy and sponsor requirements ultimately rests with the PI.

The eCertification System is the official record of project expenses and the basis for cost reimbursements to Stanford. This system is where the PI will review and certify project expenditures.

Sponsored project and cost sharing accounts must be reviewed and certified by the PI quarterly in the eCertification system for every sponsored project and cost sharing account.

The purpose of the review and certification is to confirm that all expenses charged to the account are allowable, allocable to the project, and reasonable. The certification of salary expenditures confirms that salaries charged to the account are supported by a corresponding expenditure of effort during the time period being certified. The certification also assures that other expenditures are for items or services purchased and used during the project period as specified by the award.

Faculty who are not Principal Investigators and whose salary is charged to sponsored projects must review and certify their payroll distribution.

The following certification statement appears in the eCertification System.

As the principal investigator I confirm that to the best of my knowledge, salary and wages charged to this project are appropriate in relation to work performed on this project. All other costs charged to this project are, to the best of my knowledge, appropriate. Where required, corrections have been or will be made through the accounting system.

Expenditures must be reviewed and certified by the certification due date, which is approximately 75 days after the end of the academic quarter being certified.

Adequate explanation and documentation for all project charges expenditures must be maintained for four years after the Stanford sponsor closes out the award. Where documentation cannot be provided as to the allowability, allocability and reasonableness of any project expenses, including but not limited to expenses incurred late in the project period, the sponsor may deny them. In this case, the PI, department or school will be expected to cover the expense from unrestricted appropriate sources. All data in the eCertification System will be retained by ORA in accordance with University record retention requirements for sponsored projects (see Guide Memo 3.1.5: Retention of Financial Records).

Any departure from the policy or procedures regarding summarization of Quarterly PI Review and Certification must be approved in advance by the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research (DoR) and Research Financial Reporting (RFR) within ORA. 


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Reports and Tools to Assist You

My Projects

“My Projects” shows all projects for a faculty member is participating in, regardless if they are the lead PI or collaborating in a different role. My project is found in the Stanford Electronic Research Administration System (SeRA).  You can launch My Projects from the SeRA dashboard. 

  1. Action Items - Action Items for the selected PI will be displayed and highlighted
  2. Activities in Progress by Others - Active tasks that are not assigned to the selected PI, but which the project lists the selected PI as the MAIN P
  3. Submitted Proposals Pending Award - Proposals that are in a COMPLETED status but have not yet been awarded
  4. Research Profile - This provides a high level current view of the various types of active sponsored awards, balance remaining, alongside the average monthly spending where the PI is the Task Owner (which pulls from FFIT)
  5. Project Awards Closing - Awarded projects that are in a “Closeout” status
  6. Proposals – Proposals (PDRF’s) which are in the development process
  7. My Accounts – Alongside with the “Research Profile”, you may see further detailed financial information
  8. Active Awarded Department Projects - This provides a quick snapshot of projects that have active awards which names you as an investigator or a mentor
  9. Pipeline – Transactions which you have worked on previously will be displayed here- the defaulted view displays open (active) transactions assigned to someone else, however, you have the ability to change that using the drop down menu
  10. Other Support Report – NIH – This displays current and pending support in the NIH Format
  11. Other Support Report – General - This displays current and pending support in the general format
  12. Initiate New Proposal – You have the ability to start a new proposal transaction here in addition to the left hand navigation

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My Accounts

My Accounts

My Accounts is a new financial tool that makes information about fund balances in all of your unrestricted and sponsored accounts accessible in one place and that provides automatic updates, adding expenditures and any new funding every 24 hours.     

As illustrated in the sample screen shot below, balances are given for each separate account, along with aggregate balances by category. Importantly, the report calculates projections for each account based on known commitments or prior expenditure patterns to provide a Funds Available estimate. This column is intended to help faculty know what’s ahead, instead of reporting what’s already been spent.  

Anticipated funding is also shown. In addition, you can click on each account and get a full record for that account.  A research account that is your project on a grant shared with another faculty member as the primary PI will appear. Funds that you receive for pilot projects or other internally funded research will appear in the ‘University’ category.  

Staff who are authorized to view your accounts can also access this information directly so that they can better assist with managing your academic program resources— please make your team aware of this. Default settings allow you to decide how you would like to have the information shown - click User Guide in blue font at upper right for details.

Look at the Screen Sample. Then access your own fund balances and projections by opening your SeRA dashboard and clicking the tab at the right titled My Accounts.


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Faculty Financial Inquiry Tool (FFIT)

FFIT (Faculty Financial Inquiry Tool)

The online Faculty Financial Inquiry Tool (FFIT) helps you manage your University financial resources by providing balances and drill-down transaction details for all your active accounts and funds – including those you manage on behalf of school or department programs. Current, projected, and forecasted balances are calculated using a combination of budget, revenue, expenditure, and commitment information as appropriate for each account.

Accurate and Timely Data

FFIT data is refreshed on a nightly basis from multiple Stanford financial systems, providing official, up-to-date data that you can trust.

24/7 on Your Schedule

Whether you're at work or at home, you can log into FFIT anytime to view your funds. No more requests for admins to look up your balances or reliance on out-of-date reports!

Visibility into Transaction Data

Want to dig deeper into your transactions? Click on a hyperlink to bring up comprehensive commitment and expenditure details, revenue and transfers, and more. And if you want offline copies, simply export to Excel or PDF.

Easy to Use

FFIT is like an online bank account, with a clean layout and easy-to-read information. It provides balances for all of your active accounts and funds, so you can manage everything on a single screen.

Data to Best Manage Funds

FFIT lets you see how your transactions directly impact your funds. With current information on your fund status, you can optimize your fund management in support of your teaching and research.

Access and Authority to Use FFIT

Access and authority to the tool is automatically granted to faculty researchers for all their accounts, regardless of where the activity occurs.


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