The National Science Council (NSC) yesterday said it had loosened regulations guiding the usage of council-funded research project budgets, to solve the current inflexibility that exists for usage, verification and write-off mechanisms.
NSC Minister Cyrus Chu (朱敬一) said hundreds of professors are suspected of using fake receipts to claim public funds (including research project subsidies from the council) and to purchase goods unrelated to their research spending — a situation investigated by prosecutors in March — which show that the rigid mechanisms of writing off research funding has led to some professors using “flexible” ways to solve the problem.
“Most of the professors are indirect victims of the mechanism’s insufficient flexibility as well as bad legal judgement,” he said
After consultations with Academia Sinica, the Ministry of Education, the National Audit Office and the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, the council announced the loosening of regulations focusing on three issues — “flexible flows,” “flexible expenses” and “strengthened internal controls.”
Flexible flows — the inflow and outflow of three items covering operating expenses, research equipment expenses and foreign travel expenses — have been loosened to 50 percent from 20 percent for inflow and 30 percent for outflow.
In addition, expenses exceeding the upper limit should be authorized by the council in advance and the alteration or adjustment of detailed items are to be decided by the executing facility.
In relation to flexible expenses, 2 percent of total future research funding (not exceeding more than NT$25,000 per year) can be used more flexibly and can also be written off with receipts, Chu said, adding that with the approval of the project coordinator, the total or partial quota can be released to the facility or school for flexible management.
Using a series of biological experiments as an example — something that may take many hours to undertake and which may mean the researchers have no access to public transport, then his or her taxi fare can be written off within the new flexible write-off mechanism, he said.
Moreover, Chu said the current mechanism only divides expenses into two types — approved or unapproved — which puts those in charge of verifying and approving expenses under heavy pressure and so a new option — “deducted from the facility’s management funding” — has been added to the mechanism.
Chu said the new option will give an incentive for the research facilities to improve internal controls of their funding usage, or else they will face reduced management funding by up to three times the amount of their excessive expenses.