ASU misspent more than $1 million in federal research funds

Arizona State University’s spending problems have landed the institution in trouble with the Arizona Attorney General and now it has a problem with the National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General.

ASU is a public research university that received $207 million in research grants and contracts from Federal awards in fiscal year 2016, according to auditors.

On April 15, the National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General released an audit for the period January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2016. Auditors found that the University inappropriately spent more than $1 million in research grant funds on travel, scholarships, and equipment.

The auditors questioned nearly $1.2 million of costs claimed by ASU during the audit period.

Auditors found:

$890,982 in unapproved subaward payments.

$129,095 in inappropriately allocated expenses.

$56,720 in inappropriately allocated indirect costs.

$41,553 in unsupported expenses.

$32,582 in inappropriate subaward expenses.

$22,418 in unallowable expenses.

$5,138 in unreasonable travel expenses.


  1. The headline appears to be misleading, or the story is. The issuance of an audit is only a first step in the audit process and the subject audit was issued on April 15, only a couple of days ago. After such a Federal audit is issued the organization being audited is given a period of time to resolve the issues raised by the audit, including questioned costs. It may turn out that questioned costs listed above will, with further information or documentation provided by the grantee and accepted by the grantor agency, be found to be proper expenditures and the questions will then be removed and the costs allowed. This latter exercise is commonly referred to as the audit resolution process.

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