ECC is the University of Pittsburgh’s online effort reporting tool that is used by PI’s to facilitate certification of effort associated with federally sponsored research. ECC also provides information over the course of the year to assist department and central administrators with monitoring effort and making appropriate adjustments to effort distributions on a timely basis. Salary distribution and Cost Sharing data are loaded to ECC on a nightly basis which allows users to review distributions and make adjustments as needed throughout the period of performance.
Login to my.pitt.edu. Using the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the page, search for ECC. Click the Huron icon to arrive at the ECC Welcome page, click ’Continue’ to navigate to your ECC Home Page.
To ensure proper performance in the ECC application, the vendor recommends using the latest version of Firefox or Google Chrome. However, ECC will also work using the latest version of Internet Explorer or Safari. They further recommend monitor screen resolution to be a minimum of 1024x768 or higher.
The Federal Office of the Inspector General has performed effort reporting audits at a number of large research institutions. These audits have resulted in multi-million dollar settlements stemming from disallowed compensation costs due to late or missing effort certifications and other effort reporting noncompliance.
Given Pitt's lofty rankings and high-profile research, the University must be prepared in the event that an audit comes our way. To that end, the University undertook an initiative to improve our compliance over effort reporting which included policy development based on federal regulations, an upgrade to the SPAR system and the implementation of the electronic certification application, ECC.
The University's investment in these effort reporting tools has streamlined effort certification for faculty to reduce the risk of disallowed salaries, fringe benefits and associated indirect costs recovered through federally funded projects.
As competition for federal funding increases and funding levels decline, it is important that the University is viewed as a good steward of federal funds, complying with all fiscal requirements.
All PIs on federal projects will certify their own effort. PIs will also certify for every individual working on their federal projects except for those individuals who are also PIs of federally sponsored projects.
ECC sends automatic emails at the beginning of each Certification Period to every user who has certification responsibilities. As the period progresses, there are 3 other automatic reminder emails that are sent from ECC. Only PIs who have uncertified effort will receive the reminder emails.
Faculty without federally sponsored projects will not receive any emails from ECC.
2 CFR Part 200 Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (“Uniform Guidance”) 200.430 requires some form of after-the-fact confirmation that labor expenses represent actual costs of the work performed.
If you are a federal PI and your employee classification indicates that you are a Visiting Faculty Member, Student, or Faculty Emeritus, you will not have access to ECC. A proxy will need to be assigned to certify your personal effort statement on your behalf.
There are three Periods of Performance that coincide with the University’s academic periods, September-December, January-April and May-August. The 45 day certification window will open to PIs approximately five weeks following the end of the Period of Performance. You will receive an email notifying you of the opening of the certification window.
The certification covers one 4-month academic period. The Periods of Performance are September-December, January-April and May-August. The gold header on each effort statement will identify the Period of Performance related to that effort statement.
As the Principal Investigator (PI), you are ultimately responsible for effort distributions to your federally sponsored projects. Effort distributions are dynamic representations of each employee's activities. The determination of these distributions requires a dialog between the PI and fiscal administrators.
The PI must provide estimates of time devoted to each activity for him\herself and each employee working on his/her sponsored projects. The PI must communicate any significant change in activity (work beginning on a new project, work ending on a completed project, realignment of duties between research personnel, etc.) to the fiscal administrator.
Actual effort distributions must be representative of work performed, not based on budget availability.
Fiscal administrators will ensure budget compliance through modifications to salary distribution where required, leaving actual effort percentages unchanged.
Checking the boxes on each federal line is a confirmation that you have reviewed the line and agree with the percentage of effort attributed to that project. Checking the boxes on the subtotal lines for the Sponsored Non-Federal and Non-Sponsored sections is an acknowledgement that the employee performed other activities in fulfillment of their appointment. You are not certifying these activities but acknowledging the consideration of this work in relation to the work performed on your federal sponsored project(s).
In limited instances, you may be authorized to assign certification responsibility to another individual who has first-hand knowledge of the work performed and an understanding of the scientific nature of the work. A certification designee is appointed to certify all effort related to a specific project, with the exception of the PI’s personal effort statement. A certification proxy is appointed to certify a PI’s personal effort statement. A formal request to establish either relationship must be completed and forwarded to the Office of Financial Compliance for Research (FCR) for approval.
Federal guidelines require the certification of federal sponsored activity in relation to the employee’s total University effort. You are required to check the boxes on the subtotal lines for the Sponsored Non-Federal and Non-Sponsored sections of the effort statement, not the individual lines within those sections. You are not certifying these activities but acknowledging the consideration of this work in relation to the work performed on your federal sponsored project(s).
An effort statement may be reopened if a salary reallocation is applied after the statement was certified. If this occurs the statement will require recertification. You will receive an email if any statement that you have previously certified is modified and reopened for recertification. The statement will reappear in your Statements Awaiting Certification tab as well as your Work List.
First, for faculty who perform no institutional-type activities, the completed, signed survey serves as documentation that the 100% research distribution is appropriate. Second, for faculty who perform institutional-type activities as listed on the survey, the survey serves as a tool to identify and quantify effort devoted to non-sponsored activities. Any faculty member who answers 'yes' to one or more of the survey questions should consult with his/her fiscal administrator to modify their SPAR form to recognize some portion of their effort as institutional.
If you feel that the 100% sponsored effort distribution is appropriate, return the survey with information from your grant award documents to demonstrate the allowability of these activities on the award which are typically institutional.
In general, honest errors or mistakes are not likely to result in "personal liability," but intentionally false statements can be considered "false claims" against the federal government. If you are ever named individually in a legal proceeding arising from your University duties, you should consult the Office of General Counsel.
You can receive help in a couple of ways. Every effort statement has a Get Help button that opens an email to your Primary Effort Coordinator. This would be appropriate if you have questions regarding effort percentages on this effort statement or don’t recognize the name of the person for whom you are being asked to certify.
For Any question of a system, policy or compliance nature, please email the Financial Compliance for Research department SPARhelp@cfo.pitt.edu.
When entering data into certain fields, such as a department or PI name, the system is equipped with “smart keys” which generate suggested values when at least 3 characters are entered. The more characters you enter the more specific your search results will be. After typing in your search criteria, please allow a few seconds for the system to identify your data. Once the data box returns a value, select the appropriate option, and click the submit button.
Incorrect data must be corrected in the source system for it to be corrected in ECC. Nightly data loads bring data into ECC from the SPAR, Research and Proposal Accounting (RPA), Human Resources and Payroll PRISM applications.
If you place an effort statement on hold, it is unavailable for certification by the PI(s).The statement will not be included in the mass email that notifies PIs of the Certification Period Start Date. Instead, an email will be sent to the associated PI when the hold is removed from the effort statement. This allows you to have some additional time to review the effort statement (make sure Salary Reallocations are applied, cost share amounts are accurate, etc.) before the statement is released for certification in ECC.
No. The certification period is 45 days long and will not be extended for any PI with an effort statement on “Hold.” If the effort statement is released from “Hold” 5 days into the certification period, the PI will have 40 days to certify that effort statement.
If a Salary Reallocation applies to a certified effort statement, then the effort statement will need to be recertified. A PAR Task will be created for the Primary Effort Coordinator to review before re-opening the statement for recertification. It is important to consider any additional reallocations that may be needed before reopening the statement – as only one recertification will be allowed.
ECC access is based on the department(s) identified for each Effort Coordinator's role. ECs will be able to access all effort statements for employees whose home department resides within the EC’s assigned areas. They will also be able to access effort statements for all employees whose home department is outside their assigned departments, but who have effort on accounts within one of the EC’s assigned departments.
ECC will send emails to the PIs of current federal awards as listed in the University's Research and Proposal Accounting system. When the end date for the final award of a particular PI passes, the system will no longer assign them a PI role and they will no longer receive email alerts.