eCERT and Use of Computing Devices

Published December 28, 2015

Here's an udpate on two important issues that affect UB researchers: Electronic Certification (eCERT) and using federal award computing devices for other tasks.

Electronic Certification (eCERT)

We understand your frustration with Electronic Certification (eCERT) and communicate frequently with RF Central, looking for long-term ways to simplify and improve the process. In the meantime, we are working on several short-term solutions to alleviate the situation:

  • We have pointed out software errors and a new release of the software is being tested. We need to use eCERT for the fall 2015 certification cycle and are doing everything we can to be sure it is fixed, or to move away from it for 2016.
  • We are working to reduce certification to twice a year from the current practice of three times/year.
  • We also are changing some of our administrative processes while additionally asking the software provider to make some changes. However, we ask all PIs and faculty to help by improving workflow where possible.
    • Some projects are more than two years behind in certification.
    •     SPS will work with those PIs/faculty who need help getting updated certifications.
    • Retroactive charging is a major problem, so please plan ahead in order to avoid it.
    • We will be reviewing and formulating guidelines / policies in order to minimize these type of charges.

SPS Operations Specialist Sara Piper can help you with eCERT. Contact her at sarapipe@buffalo.edu or 645-2977. Improving eCERT is a top priority.

Use Federal Award Computing Devices for Other Tasks

The Office of Management and Budget updated the regulations in January 2015, changing the use of computing devices purchased with federal funds. In summary, section 200.453-c states the following: "Materials and supplies used for the performance of a Federal award may be charged as direct costs. In the specific case of computing devices, charging as direct costs is allowable for devices that are essential and allocable, but not solely dedicated, to the performance of a Federal award." [emphases added]

The bottom line is that a computing device that is essential for a federal contract / award also can be used for other tasks. While there is no specific guidance on percentage usage or other metrics, the key is that the computer device was "essential" in being acquired for the sponsored program funded by a federal award. Please use good judgment on this new ruling, and if you have any questions, please reach out to SPS Directors (Marlene, Don or Mary).

A computing device is defined as "... machines used to acquire, store, analyze, process and publish data and other information electronically, including accessories (or peripherals) for printing and receiving or storing electronic information."