Understanding & Amending a Subaward

A subaward is an agreement with a third party (usually an organization, although it can be an individual) to perform substantive programmatic work or conduct a significant portion of the project. The work to be performed is integral to the overall success of the sponsored project and is carried out in compliance with prime award guidelines. A subaward generally involves greater performance expectations, includ­ing formal milestones and deliverables, than an Independent Contractor Agreement (ICA). The individ­ual primarily responsible for accomplishing the work promised under a subaward may often be consid­ered, or even given the title of, a co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) with the CUNY PI.

RFCUNY requires fewer documents to prepare a subaward, but those docu­ments are generally more extensive. This is in keeping with the nature of the work being done under a subaward being more extensive than that done by an independent contractor.

Considering that a subaward is an award of part of the overall or “prime” award and is made for the purpose of carrying out a portion of the deliverables under the prime award, it is critical that the terms and condi­tions of the subaward be consistent with those of the prime award. This is often referred to as the subaward “flowing through” the terms of the prime.

Also, because the funds spent under the subaward must be consistent with the funds awarded under the prime award, including those in the line-item budget of the prime award, a cost reimbursement subaward must be accompa­nied by its own line-item budget.

Subrecipients are ordinarily selected based on their expertise rather than a simple cost analysis. Consequently, RFCUNY does not require a demonstration that the subrecipient was selected through a competitive-bidding process or, in its place, a sole source justification.

Most CUNY colleges have reserved the right to approve a subaward (in addition to the PI’s approval). Requests for subawards from those colleges must be reviewed and approved by the college’s Grants Officer.

Amending a Subaward

A subaward, like any other legal agreement, can be amended with the consent of both parties. A PI is not required to resubmit the entire collection of documentation outlined above to amend an existing subaward; rather, what is needed is the information describing the change requested.

If the funds being paid to the contractor are to be increased or decreased, the PI should set forth the amount of the change and must also identify how the scope of work has changed warranting payment of the revised amount. If the PI proposes to continue the subrecipient’s engagement to a later date, the PI should set forth the new end date for the work, as well as any change in the scope of work justifying the extension.

College approval is always needed for a subaward amendment if it was required for the initial subaward. Sponsor approval may also be needed.

No Cost Extension

If the PI is providing the contractor an extension of time to perform the same work, for the same money, the amendment process may be simpler. A no cost extension may, under some circumstances, require only the submission of a payment request. A PI should refer to the provi­sion in the subaward specifying how to obtain a no cost extension. A subaward cannot under any circumstances be extended beyond the closing date of the prime award under which it is being paid. 

Return to top