Resist the Temptation To Lie on Grant Applications

May 2, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

gavel-4-1409594-mAs part of covering grants over the past decade, I can’t tell you how many conference sessions I’ve attended where, in discussing grant applications, the presenter has stressed that applicants should be truthful in presenting themselves and their organization. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not and don’t make promises you can’t keep was the general advice. After reading a recent article in the Houston Chronicle, it appears two University of Houston professors didn’t heed this message.

According to the article, the professors received nearly $1.4 million in federal grants from the federal government by lying on applications and submitting doctored letters of support over 13 years. They now face 29 counts of conspiracy, making false statements and wire fraud, the article continues.

According to the indictment, the professors, on behalf of their company, Integrated Micro Sensors Inc., used false and fraudulent letters of support and made false claims about facilities, equipment and materials. One of the professors was accused of submitting a letter of support from Solex Robotics Systems, which the Houston-based company didn’t know about, to the National Science Foundation for a $499,995 grant. The article further states that in other applications, the two listed hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of costs that, according to the indictment, they “well knew Integrated Micro Sensors Inc. would not incur.”

As if this wasn’t interesting enough, I really got a kick out of the somewhat flippant response of the lawyer of one of the professors. According to the article, the lawyer chalked the allegations up to poor accounting on the part of the professors. Applications for federal grants frequently have inaccuracies, and that’s all that these are, the lawyer told the Chronicle.

Sure, simple accuracies. Nothing to worry about. Everybody does it. Right….

Hopefully this will come as a warning to those who may be considering raising the stakes a bit to win that federal grant. There is a growing wave of accountability for future federal funding. Make sure you portray yourself truthfully and avoid penalties down the road.

Do you know of other instances where an applicant did not portray themselves truthfully. We’d like to know about it.

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