Friday, May 29, 2009

Double dippin'

Who ever came up with the accounting system for grants was either a genius or a crook. Maybe both. I spent a lot of yesterday deal with the budget I am putting together for one of my grant proposals. In said grant, I am budgeting a sub-contract so that a student can live at a tropical field station for a year (any takers?). The field station, as a place of research, has an overhead rate that gets charged to any subcontract. Their rate is 55.01% (why the .01, I have no clue). So, the breakdown of costs there goes something like this.

Room 575/month = $6900
food 30/day = $10950
Total = $17850

Field station overhead (55.01%) = $9820
Total with O/H = $27,670

Fair enough, but wait! It gets better. Because the money is being paid as a sub-contract through Employment U, they want their cut too. Do you think that they take O/H on just the cost of room and board? No way. They take O/H on the whole amount, including the field station O/H. Well, because it's a sub-contract only $25K is eligible for O/H, but they are still taking overhead on another institution's overhead. If we do the math on that, it looks like this:

Employment U O/H (49%, but only on the first $25K of a subcontract) = $12,250
GRAND total = $39,920

So, in order to spend $17850 of fed money to pay for room and board, we have to spend $39,920, or 124% more than the original cost. Gotta love academic finances.


  1. Whoa, wait: $30 for food a day!? Where do I apply?

  2. Yup, that's how the whole subcontract thing works here too. It's a huge disincentive to using subcontracts and thereby impedes collaboration as well as situations such as yours.

  3. Toaster, sorry but the money goes to the field station, not the student. Three home-cooked meals a day, though.

    Odyssey, you would think the feds would ask that O/H only be taken on the original amount, at the very least. Of course, the government wrote the book on double dipping...

  4. Everytime I want to rant about how corrupt and fucked up the system is, I remember it's a fed system. We only took the corruption from the corruptors, as it were. If they *want* us to waste tax payer money keeping hundreds of pointless beaurocrats employed at each school...well, who are we to complain?!

  5. Wow, must be some GOOD home-cooked meals! Geez, that's more than my per diem.

  6. More than mine too, but food isn't cheap at field sites. But, if you really want to be sick keep in mind that it's $30/day plus 55.01%, plus 49% of that. If you calculate that out you come up with $69.29 per day. Now that's a fucking per diem!

  7. Sad part is that people I know who work in the business world would consider $30/day to be an unbelievably stingy meal allowance!

  8. Try the movie industry, they get that much for breakfast when they're on location ;)