Fixed Price Agreements

Policy Date: June 2015     Revision: 3     Last Review: November 2017

A fixed price agreement is an agreement whereby the contractor pays a set amount for the agreed upon work regardless of the ultimate cost to complete the project.

Accepting fixed price agreements involves a degree of risk for the University of Nevada, Reno (University) because all work must be completed even if there are cost overruns. Therefore, principal investigators (PIs) must accurately budget to ensure that the funds received from the sponsor are sufficient to cover the actual project costs.

Fixed price agreements also present the University with issues related to deficit and surplus balances. Upon project completion or termination, any deficit or surplus balance must be moved to a non-sponsored account. However, before moving the funds to a non-sponsored account, a review of large unexpended balances and overages may be required in accordance with federal regulations, 48 CFR Part 9905 - Cost Accounting Standards for Educational Institutions, which requires consistency in estimating, accumulating and reporting costs. 

In part, the regulation states the following: 

With respect to individual sponsored agreements, the consistent application of cost accounting practices will facilitate the preparation of reliable cost estimates used in pricing a proposal and their comparison with the costs of performance of the resulting sponsored agreement. Such comparisons provide one important basis for financial control over costs during sponsored agreement performance and aid in establishing accountability for costs in the manner agreed to by both parties at the time of agreement. The comparisons also provide an improved basis for evaluating estimating capabilities.

To ensure compliance with 48 CFR Part 9905, the University must review fixed price contracts that show a significant deviation between proposed costs and actual expenditures at project completion. Ideally, accurate budgeting (forecasting) and charging of costs should result in circumstances where there is neither a deficit nor a substantial surplus of funds at project completion.

Basic Funding Considerations

Due to the inherent risk involved, it is the University's policy that sponsors provide as much advance funding as reasonable for fixed price agreements. While flexibility in determining the amount of advanced funding is necessary, the scope of work must be recognized. The remainder of award funding can be provided monthly, quarterly or through a milestone completion schedule. Other procedures including but not limited to requiring memo accounts may also be implemented to mitigate situations involving substantial risk.

Responsibility

Principal Investigator (PI)

The PI must ensure at the outset that fixed price budgets are sufficient to cover all project costs. Accurate forecasting is necessary, and budgets should be consistent with the anticipated amount necessary to perform the work. The PI should work with Sponsored Projects to ensure that budgets will cover all project costs, including facilities and administrative (F&A) costs. The PI must charge all related project costs to the account established for the project. (See surplus balance procedures below.)

Sponsored Projects

Sponsored Projects negotiates and executes all contracts and agreements related to sponsored projects and reviews all budgets for compliance with sponsor and University requirements. Sponsored Projects also monitors expenditures, invoices and verifies payments are received for all sponsored projects and coordinates the closeout process. 

Fixed Price Deficit and Surplus Balances

Surplus Balances Procedures

  1. The PI must submit the Certification of Fixed Price Project Completion Form to Sponsored Projects within 90 days of the project end. 
  2. Prior to transfer of any residual balance, funds will first be used to recover the following, in the order listed below.
    1. The facilities and administrative (F&A) rate at the full federally negotiated F&A rate, irrespective of the F&A rate charged to the sponsor, will be collected on the residual and allocated according to the current distribution method as established at account set up.
    2. Uncollectible receivables and deficits, if any, on sponsored projects under the PI's direction.
  3.  Balance transfers will be processed as follows after the above distributions have been applied:
    1. Balances which are 10% or less of the funded amount will be transferred to an unrestricted account (usually a Miscellaneous Program Development account) as directed by the dean.
    2. Balances that exceed 10% must be reviewed prior to transfer. The Certification of Fixed Price Project Completion Form, with an accompanying explanation of the variance between the project budget and the actual amount expended, will be reviewed to determine if the variance is reasonable and appropriate. The PI must submit a Certification of Fixed Price Project Completion Form signed by the PI, chair/director and dean/VP.
      • The amount in excess of the 10% will be distributed in accordance with established ratios associated with returned F&A. (Handling residual balances in this manner reinforces the importance of accurate forecasting and appropriately charging related expenses to the appropriate project and is consistent with the University's non-profit mission.)

Deficit Balances Procedures

  1. Deficit balances will be covered by college/department accounts.
  2. When project costs exceed the funds available for the project before, at completion or termination, Sponsored Projects will notify the PI of the overrun and request an unrestricted department or college account number to cover the costs. The dean and chair/director will also be notified of all overruns.
  3. If the PI does not respond with an account number within 30 days, Sponsored Projects will transfer the overrun to the PI's F&A cost account (if any) or the department/college F&A cost accounts if the individual PI's account is not sufficient to cover the overrun. Sponsored Projects will notify the dean/chair/center director if a transfer impacts any account other than the PI's individual account.
  4. If invoices are not paid by the sponsor resulting in uncollectible receivables, the resulting deficit, if any, will be treated as noted above. If collection attempts are successful, the debited F&A cost account will be credited.

Closeout

If the deliverables have been met and the institution has collected the funds, fixed price awards will be closed within 90 days after the end of the date of the award. This practice is consistent with other types of awards.