UPR still under investigation by the NSF

UPR still under investigation by the NSF
By Harry C. González Rivera

The University of Puerto Rico continues under investigation by the National Science Foundation for failing to comply with three of the 32 items for which the UPR has been non-compliant since 2005.  In February 2012 the NSF gave the UPR until April 1, 2012 to solve the situation but after failing to solve three time and effort accountability items, the NSF decided to freeze $33 million research funds for 60 days. The issue is not yet resolved.

The UPR’s ties with the NSF go back as far as three decades. The UPR receives NSF funds thought UPR Resource Center for Science and Engineering in the Río Piedras Campus, created in 1980 with joint support from the NSF, whose current director is Dr. Manuel Gómez, and through the Research and Development Center, UPR Mayagüez Campus, established in 1986, whose current acting director is Dr. Walter Silva Araya.

Although the UPR’s non-compliance goes back to 2005, in February 2011 the NSF found mayor issues with the management of the NSF funds to which the UPR responded with a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) that was recieved and approved by the NSF.  By August 8, 2011 the NSF put the UPR on probation due the UPR continued delinquency in compliance with the proposed CAP.

On February 3, 2012 the NSF officially notified the UPR of its deficiencies in the time and effort accountability of the funds and stated that the issues had to be resolve by April 1, 2012 but the UPR failed to comply and ended in a 60 days funds suspension. To maintain its research programs running the UPR approached the Government Development Bank, which allowed the UPR to use a $33 million credit line to cover the NSF research operations while the matter between NSF and UPR is settled.

In June 6, 2012 the NSF granted an extension to the original 60 days it initially gave to the UPR. Radames Irrizarry Castillo, a fifth year Chemical Engineering student, questioned the possibility of the UPR not being able to pay the back the GDB with NSF funds in the near future. He believes that this would  imply an additional fees in the August 2012 academic semester.

By August 10, 2012 the NSF reaffirm that UPR dint manage to fix it’s time and effort accountability issues and extended the funds freeze till 2013, when it will decide whether to lift it or end all related projects funded by the NSF. On October 10, 2012 the NSF asked the UPR for the payroll of both Resource Center for Science and Engineering and Research and Development Center during the 2012 summer to discuss the documentation  a month later.

When asked about the current UPR issues with the NSF, Fabio Rodriguez, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student, said he was really worried the reputable professors would move to other universities to continue their research and leave him without the opportunity to take a class with the professors that are actually doing active research at UPRM.

On October 30, 2012 the UPR President Dr. Miguel Muñoz published a letter to the UPR community about the current state of the implementation of the CAP, where the administration put most of its effort. However, on November 13, 2012 the newspaper El Nuevo Día published a news article where it stated that Dr. Miguel Muñoz is confident the National Science Foundation will unfreeze funds to the university by the end of this semester, but the Inspector General office may impose fines because of the UPR continued delinquency.

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Dr. Miguel Muñoz is confident the National Science Foundation will unfreeze funds to the university by the end of this semester, but the Inspector General office may impose fines because of the UPR continued delinquency. Photo : http://www.primerahora.com/miguelmunoznodescartausarlapoliciaenlauniversidadsiesnecesariovevideo-474706.html

The Inspector General’s investigation began in October 2012.  The Inspector General is an independent agency with a branch in the NSF that audit’s the effectiveness of security procedures to uncover the possibility of misconduct, waste, fraud, theft, or certain types of criminal activity by individuals or groups related to the agency’s operation, usually involving some misuse of the organization’s funds or credit.

Gil Camarreno, a fifth year Chemical Engineering student, commented that although she does believe the issue will be resolved, the UPR will receive a huge fine that would be then passed to the students either by raising the credit cost or by adding another stabilization fee to the students.

On the other hand, Efrain Aymat, a second year Chemical Engineering graduate student, believes that the NSF should treat the Río Piedras campus office and the Mayagüez campus office separately, because to his understanding the current issues of time and effort accountability reports are only from the Río Piedras campus office.

 

 

nsf

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering.

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