Eligible Spending

Research funds are restricted. This means that these funds may only be spent in accordance with the sponsor's expectations. The responsibility for spending properly rests with the project holder pursuant to University policy (PDF). RSO assists researchers who are unclear about how to interpret sponsor expectations, and with preparing reports to sponsors.
There are several internal and external processes that determine if research funding is being used correctly. Please see below for more details and guidelines for what to do if your project is selected for one of these processes.

Sponsor Audits

Each year, the University is visited by a wide variety of auditors and financial monitoring teams to review the financial accounting and related issues of externally funded research. These visits have two main objectives:

  • Ensure that agency rules are being followed and that funds are being used properly (i.e., according to the budget and eligible expenses)
  • To ensure that the financial transactions included in the sponsors' financial records based on our information are sound

What to do if you are selected for audit

Researchers with project(s) selected for audit should immediately contact Michael Walesiak, Associate Director, Finance and Information Management, Research Services Office. Researchers may also want to contact their Research Partner for more assistance, clarification, and information on what is expected.

What to expect during an audit

Research Administrative Services will provide auditors with a detailed list of expenditure transactions for the project(s) that are being audited. The auditors will select a sample list of transactions that they would like to review. RSO will work with the researcher's department and other central departments to gather the documentation (original copy of expense, backup documentation, etc.) for the selected transactions.

The auditors may request to meet with the researcher during their audit visit. If this is requested, the department and researchers will be notified and a suitable time will be arranged.

Research Expenditure Testing

Research expenditure testing is where RSO samples expenses charged to externally restricted research projects. The purpose is to test whether the expense is an eligible expense and complies with sponsor guidelines and policies.

The importance of expenditure testing

There is heavy reliance on expenditure testing by many parties, including external auditors and external funding agencies. External auditors will use this information in assessing University of Alberta's internal control environment.

How the Research Services Office (RSO) does expenditure testing

We first sample expenditures throughout the year that were charged to research projects. Supporting documentation for these samples are then requested to ensure the expenditures are adequate and sufficient for institutional reviewers. Afterward, RSO determines if the expenses were both eligible and compliant.

What makes an expense ineligible

An expense is ineligible when it is expressly prohibited by a sponsor or not directly related to research activities.

What makes an expense non-compliant

A non-compliant expenditure generally refers to documentation for that expense that fails to meet a number of strict guidelines set out by sponsors.

Review of supporting documents

Supporting documents should be provided to RSO as soon as possible, generally within one week. This allows us to do our review. After our review, any concerns about either eligibility or compliance will be brought to the attention of the administrator (if applicable) and the principal investigator. This enables any issues identified to be solved in a timely manner.

Our institution has not only the right, but also the responsibility to withhold payment of expenses that go against agency requirements or institutional policies. This is in accordance with Tri-Agency guidelines. The internal control administrator of a department fulfills this duty and is essential to this process.


Research Expenditure Best Practice Guide (PDF): this resource was developed to help researchers and administrators meet the financial obligations of our sponsors (with a particular emphasis on the Tri Agencies) and University of Alberta policies and procedure requirements. The guide contains a list of common issues identified through our expenditure testing process and provides solutions for dealing with the issues. Please note the guide should be used in conjunction with relevant sponsor guidelines and University of Alberta policies and procedures.

Reviewing and Verifying Research Grant Expenditures (YouTube) 

Preparing for a Tri-Agency Monitoring Review

UAPPOL Policies

Related Links