What is Effort Reporting?
Effort reporting is the method of certifying to the federal granting agencies that the effort required as a condition of the award has actually been completed. Effort reporting is required by OMB Circular A-21, which requires certification of effort spent by all employees whose salaries are charged directly to federal and federal flow-through funds, as well as for reporting committed cost sharing (but not uncommitted cost sharing). An effort report will be generated for any employee whose salary or any portion of salary is charged to a federally sponsored award, including federal flow-through funds, and for any employees with cost-sharing commitments associated with federal or federal flow-through funds. If effort was committed on a sponsored project charged to a federal or federal flow-through fund, the report must be certified.
Effort Reporting Schedules
Effort reporting periods match the federal fiscal year of October through September each year. Effort reports are issued approximately 45 days after the end of each reporting period, near November, and reports must be certified within 120 days of the end of the reporting period, near January.
Effort Reporting Best Practices
There are many things you can do to ensure your effort-reporting process is effective, efficient and accurate.
- Establish and maintain good communication and clear roles. Communication is essential between the effort reporting coordinator and certifiers. The ERS coordinator should clarify which employees cannot certify their own reports and who has first-hand knowledge to certify for them. Principal investigators should certify their own reports and the reports of anyone who worked for them who is not a faculty or professional staff member. PIs should not certify for other faculty, even line-item certification.
- ERS coordinators follow up with certifiers on open reports to make sure they are certified within 120 days of the end of the reporting period.
- ERS coordinators work with departments to ensure that employees leaving the department have their efforts properly recorded, if applicable.
- Research administrators and PIs should communicate regularly and clarify who will perform each of these tasks: Verify/correct effort on report; Verify/correct cost sharing on report; If effort is changed, process a payroll adjustment in the Payroll Personnel System (PPS); Certify the report within 120 days of the end of the reporting period (must be done by someone with first-hand knowledge of the work performed); and Match effort certified to effort commitments
- Department research administrators and department payroll personnel should communicate regularly and correct out-of-balance situations between payroll records and certified effort within 120 days of the end of the reporting period. Good communication between departments can ensure that effort reporting is complete and accurate
- Avoid payroll transfers by indicating correct percentages the first time.
- Cuts in funding do not automatically reduce effort commitments. Reduction of effort commitments must be negotiated with the sponsor, or else the original effort commitment must be met with cost sharing.
- Certify cost shared transactions appropriately.
- Certify all committed cost sharing, whether voluntary or involuntary.
- Do not certify uncommitted cost sharing. It should not appear on any effort reports.
- If appropriate, add cost sharing percentage to the Adjusted Cost Sharing Percentage field on the effort report before certification.
- Make payroll changes in PPS after making adjustments on effort reports.
- When changes have been made to the Adjusted Payroll Percentage column on the effort report, be sure to make the necessary changes in the PPS as soon as possible after certifying the effort report. ERS will verify that the payroll and effort are in sync after the adjustments.
- Use the Effort Reporting System as effectively as possible
- Communicate electronically with other people who need ERS information. You can use the built-in email functionality to email effort reports to other staff. If you wish to sort or otherwise reorganize the data available on an effort report, you can transfer the data to a spreadsheet.
- Become familiar with the various ERS report status codes to ensure that the appropriate action is taken.
- Maintain a proper separation of duties. There are different roles and permissions in ERS to ensure that there is a proper separation of duties, so you should work with your department ERS security administrator to ensure a proper separation of duties for your organization.
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