Tri-agency financial administration

Frequently asked questions

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What makes the 2019 Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration (TAGFA) different from the 2017 Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide (TAFAG)?

The TAGFA offers distinct roles and responsibilities for the Agencies, the institutions and the grant recipients. The focus is on principles and directives rather than requirements; it allows an enhanced responsiveness to the evolving research environment, reduces the administrative burden for institutions and grant recipients and offers clearer and more consistent guidance from the Agencies.

Why did the Tri-agency decide to move to a principles-based approach for financial administration?

The purpose of the principle-based approach was to streamline and simplify the administration and use of grant funds, and move to a less directive and burdensome approach for institutions and grant recipients. The project was initiated partly in response to feedback from stakeholders regarding the inefficiencies and unnecessary burden imposed by the existing financial administration guide and to support harmonization efforts within the Tri-agency.

When does the TAGFA take effect?

There were twelve institutions involved in piloting the new guide in late 2018. For these institutions, listed below, the Guide took effect on November 1, 2019:

  • Brock University
  • Cape Breton University
  • Dalhousie University
  • McMaster University
  • Sick Kids Hospital
  • Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Université Laval
  • University of Alberta
  • University of British Columbia
  • Waterloo University
  • Western University
  • York University

The Guide will take effect for all other eligible (non-pilot) administering institutions on April 1, 2020. This transition period (until April 2020) will provide the onboarding institutions time to conduct a policy gap analysis, develop their internal communications plan and fully understand and prepare to implement the Guide.

Stakeholders from pilot and non-pilot institutions alike are encouraged to read the full Guide carefully and to participate in information sessions provided by the Tri-agency, as well as training opportunities provided by their administering institution.

What are my responsibilities now as a grant recipient? Or as an administering institution/research administrator?

The general roles and responsibilities of each party are outlined on a separate page. It should be noted, however, that each directive in the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration includes specific roles and responsibilities for grant recipients and for administering institutions. Stakeholders are therefore encouraged to read the full Guide carefully and to participate in information sessions provided by the Tri-agency or training opportunities provided by their administering institution.

How should I determine if an item or service is an eligible expense that may be purchased with grant funds?

It is a shared responsibility between the grant recipient and the administering institution to assess the eligibility of the expenditure. The four key principles on the “appropriate use of grant funds” outlined in the Guide need to be applied to determine the feasibility and viability of the expense.
Grant expenditures must:

  • contribute towards the direct costs of the research/activities for which the funds were awarded, with benefits directly attributable to the grant
  • not be provided by the administering institution to their research personnel
  • be effective and economical
  • not result in personal gain for members of the research team

A guidance tool is currently being developed and will be available by April 1, 2020. In the meantime, grant holders are also encouraged to participate in information sessions provided by the Tri-agency or training opportunities provided by their administering institution.

What makes an expense “effective and economical?”

An expense is deemed “effective and economical” when it achieves the intended outcome with due regard for minimizing cost by avoiding unnecessary expense. This means the expenditure is considered an optimal use of the funds, which may not necessarily mean the “lowest cost.”

For example, an unnecessary expense may occur when an item or service, no matter how cheap or expensive, is ineffective in achieving the intended outcome (i.e., it ends up creating undue burden on the funded activities by causing research delays, additional expenses, lost time and/or effort due to overly burdensome administration, etc.).

How does the Tri-agency define “personal gain?”

The concept of “personal gain” refers to using grant funds to serve an individual's interests or attain a personal advantage and/or profit that outweighs the benefit to the grant-funded research/activities.

If an item or service was an eligible expense under the 2017 Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide, is it still an appropriate use of grant funds under the TAGFA?

If the item or service respects the four key principles and the directives as outlined in the TAGFA, the expense would continue to be an appropriate use of grant funds (i.e., eligible).

Where should I go if I have questions?

The grant recipient’s main point of contact for questions is their administering institution. The grant recipient should therefore contact their institution representative instead of getting in touch with the relevant agency directly.

The administering institution’s main point of contact for questions is the relevant agency (i.e., either CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC—whichever agency issued the grant in question). The administering institution can get in touch with the agency via email:

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