Guidelines on Working with Subrecipients on Federally Funded Projects

Version: January 2020, modified November 2020

These guidelines outline the process and responsibilities when Lewis & Clark serves as the prime award recipient (aka prime, pass-through entity, or PTE) of a federal grant that requires issuing a subaward to another entity. A subaward or subcontract is a legal agreement that obligates the subrecipient to work with the prime award recipient (Lewis & Clark) as part of a larger project. The terms of a subaward agreement generally include the sponsor’s terms and conditions, plus additional terms the prime includes to help mitigate risk.

Not all external partners are subrecipients. In some cases, it can be difficult to determine whether a subrecipient relationship exists, but it is essential to make the correct determination at the proposal stage. The definitions below illustrate the difference between a subrecipient and a vendor/contractor.

  • Subrecipient: A subrecipient is a true partner that works collaboratively with the prime to carry out the scope of work. Their performance is measured in relationship to the achievement of federal program objectives and they have a substantial role in programmatic decision-making.
  • Vendor/Contractor: A vendor or contractor may be hired to perform specific services on a project, but is not considered a partner and does not have a substantial role in programmatic decision-making.

Preparing a proposal that involves a subrecipient requires additional time because of the increased complexity. This includes gathering required documents from the collaborating institution for internal review and approval before an application may be submitted; the SPARC office will help guide this process. Lewis & Clark reserves the right to withhold a proposal from submission if the subrecipient does not provide acceptable documentation by the deadline established or is deemed ineligible or too high risk to proceed.

Once a proposal is funded, Lewis & Clark must take additional steps before a subaward can be issued, including performing a risk assessment. Higher risk subrecipients may include small, newly established, private, or for-profit institutions, may lack experience with federal grants, and/or may have provided inadequate responses to the audit questionnaire. In these cases, the subaward agreement will include additional terms and conditions to help manage potential risk to the College. Lewis & Clark reserves the right to cancel the subaward process if the risk in proceeding is determined to be too high. While SPARC is committed to working expeditiously, drafting and negotiating a subaward agreement will take additional time after the prime agreement is fully executed; please consider this in your planning.

The prime institution (Lewis & Clark) is responsible for ensuring subrecipients comply with federal terms and conditions throughout the lifecycle of an award. Any subaward issued by Lewis & Clark on a federal grant must contain the required elements identified by 2 CFR §200.331 and may include risk reduction clauses (e.g. additional monitoring/reporting; detailed invoices/back-up receipts). Subawards must be monitored in accordance with the Uniform Guidance and OMB Circular A-133 “Audits of States, Local Governments, and Nonprofit Organizations.” Ongoing monitoring includes reviewing the subrecipient’s financial and programmatic reports, completed milestones, and deliverables. Successful subaward management requires the collaborative efforts of the Principal Investigator (PI), SPARC office, and Business Office; responsibilities are described below.

Principal Investigator (PI)
The PI is the main point of contact for their collaborator and is primarily responsible for managing the programmatic aspects of the project. In addition, the PI is responsible for monitoring the subrecipient’s progress and approving financial expenditures prior to payment. PI responsibilities at each stage are outlined below:

Proposal stage (PI):

  • Obtain Scope of Work from collaborator that includes a clear description of the work to be performed, all deliverables, and a timeline.
  • Complete Sub vs. Contractor Determination Form.
  • Submit Scope of Work (SOW) and Determination Form to the SPARC office for review and approval. SOW must provide a clear description of work to be performed, including proposed timelines and deliverables.
  • Introduce SPARC to the subrecipients sponsored projects office.
  • Continue working with the subrecipient to finalize their budget, the total project budget, and the collaborative proposal.

Award Initiation (PI):

  • Review the award document and confirm that the subrecipient’s SOW, budget, budget justification, etc. haven’t changed since proposal submission.
  • Meet with SPARC to confirm special instructions for the subrecipient, such as reporting requirements, milestones to be met, required deliverables and timeline.
  • Review final subaward agreement prepared by SPARC.

Monitoring during the award (PI):

  • Based on the SOW, monitor subrecipient’s progress through regular communication and scheduled reports, and maintain project management documentation.
  • Review and approve invoices from the subrecipient and submit to SPARC for approval and processing.
  • Notify SPARC if subrecipient fails to adhere to the terms/conditions specified in the subaward or if there are any performance or compliance issues.
  • Keep SPARC apprised of project changes because some may warrant agreement modification.

Award closeout (PI):

  • Ensure that the subrecipient has submitted all required reports and completed all deliverables prior to approving final payment to the subrecipient.

Sponsored Projects and Research Compliance (SPARC)
SPARC is the primary point of contact for the subrecipient’s sponsored projects office and/or Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR). SPARC will work closely with the PI and Business Office to ensure completion of documents and proper closeout of the subaward. SPARC responsibilities at each stage are outlined below:

Proposal Stage (SPARC):

    1. Subrecipient Commitment Form signed by subrecipient’s Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) or the equivalent.
    2. Scope of Work (SOW).
    3. Budget and Budget Justification, including direct and indirect costs, and verification of any committed cost sharing.
    4. Facilities & Administrative Rate Agreement and most recent Fringe Benefit Rates.
    5. Any other documentation required by the sponsor or program solicitation.
  • Conduct a preliminary risk assessment and debarment and suspension check. If the subrecipient poses an elevated risk for any reason, SPARC will consult with the Business Office and General Counsel to determine if and under what conditions the collaboration may proceed.
  • Route the Grant Proposal Clearance Form (GPCF) with the completed GPCF Subrecipient Information Form and supporting documentation for internal approvals.

Award Initiation (SPARC):

  • Confirm with the PI that the subrecipient’s SOW, budget and budget justification have not changed.
  • Conduct a debarment and suspension check.
  • Contact collaborating institution to notify them of the award and request updated documents as needed. If it has been more than 12 months from the date of the authorized signature on the Subrecipient Commitment Form, updated documentation is required.
  • Request additional information and disclosures from the subrecipient as needed to perform risk assessment
  • Conduct a formal risk assessment in collaboration with the Business Office (BO) and maintain documentation with the grant file.
  • Prepare a subaward agreement based on the FDP template in collaboration with the Business Office and General Counsel.
  • Provide Agreement and Checklist of Required Documentation for Subrecipient Monitoring to the subrecipient SPO.
  • Serve as primary point of contact regarding administration of the award.
  • Provide the PI and the subrecipient’s SPO with a fully executed subaward document.
  • Alert Business Office if total subaward is expected to reach or exceed the threshold requiring FFATA reporting during the project period

Monitoring during the award (SPARC):

  • Review and approve financial reports and requests for payment.
  • Monitor payment to subrecipient so as to not exceed subaward budget.
  • Extend/modify subaward agreement as needed.
  • Perform annual debarment and suspension review.
  • Request and review annual subrecipient compliance confirmation, if required.
  • Alert Business Office if total subaward reaches FFATA reporting threshold.

Award Closeout (SPARC):

  • Request and review completed closeout checklist from subrecipient.
  • Review and approve final financial reports and confirm with PI that all deliverables have been met.

Business Office (BO)
The Business Office is an important partner in determining the risk of a potential subrecipient and managing any risk throughout the process. The BO’s primary responsibilities are outlined below:

Proposal Stage:

  • Review and approve Grant Proposal Clearance Form, GPCF Subrecipient Information Form, and attached supporting documents and confirm that proceeding with proposal submission is acceptable.

Award Initiation:

  • Review subrecipient’s financial and audit records, identify potential risks, and suggest special terms to mitigate identified risks, as appropriate.
  • Collaborate with SPARC to review risk assessment documents
  • Issue a management decision not to proceed if risks are deemed too high.

During the award:

  • Process subrecipient invoices that have been approved by the PI and SPARC in a timely manner.
  • Submit and update required FFATA information to the FSRS website in a timely manner.
  • Perform annual compliance review of subrecipient’s A-133/single audit as required
  • Collaborate with SPARC to address any deficiencies or issues of noncompliance.

Award Closeout:
Confirm with SPARC that final subrecipient invoices have been processed before preparing final financial reports for sponsor.