23 CFR § 172.11 - Allowable costs and oversight.
(a) Allowable costs.
(1) Costs or prices based on estimated costs for contracts shall be eligible for Federal-aid reimbursement only to the extent that costs incurred or cost estimates included in negotiated prices are allowable in accordance with the Federal cost principles.
(2) Consultants shall be responsible for accounting for costs appropriately and for maintaining records, including supporting documentation, adequate to demonstrate that costs claimed have been incurred, are allocable to the contract, and comply with Federal cost principles.
(b) Elements of contract costs. The following requirements shall apply to the establishment of the specified elements of contract costs:
(1) Indirect cost rates.
(A) Performed an audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards to test compliance with the requirements of the Federal cost principles and issued an audit report of the consultant's indirect cost rate(s); or
(iii) When the indirect cost rate has not been established by a cognizant agency in accordance with paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, a STA or other recipient shall perform an evaluation of a consultant's or subconsultant's indirect cost rate prior to acceptance and application of the rate to contracts administered by the recipient or its subrecipients. The evaluation performed by STAs or other recipients to establish or accept an indirect cost rate shall provide assurance of compliance with the Federal cost principles and may consist of one or more of the following:
(D) Conducting other evaluations in accordance with a risk-based oversight process as specified in paragraph (c)(2) of this section and within the agency's approved written policies and procedures, as specified in § 172.5(c).
(iv) A lower indirect cost rate may be accepted for use on a contract if submitted voluntarily by a consultant; however, the consultant's offer of a lower indirect cost rate shall not be a condition or qualification to be considered for the work or contract award.
(v) Once accepted in accordance with paragraphs (b)(1)(ii) through (iv) of this section, contracting agencies shall apply such indirect cost rate for the purposes of contract estimation, negotiation, administration, reporting, and contract payment and the indirect cost rate shall not be limited by administrative or de facto ceilings of any kind.
(vi) A consultant's accepted indirect cost rate for its 1-year applicable accounting period shall be applied to contracts; however, once an indirect cost rate is established for a contract, it may be extended beyond the 1-year applicable period, through the duration of the specific contract, provided all concerned parties agree. Agreement to the extension of the 1-year applicable period shall not be a condition or qualification to be considered for the work or contract award.
(vii) Disputed rates. If an indirect cost rate established by a cognizant agency in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section is in dispute, the contracting agency does not have to accept the rate. A contracting agency may perform its own audit or other evaluation of the consultant's indirect cost rate for application to the specific contract, until or unless the dispute is resolved. A contracting agency may alternatively negotiate a provisional indirect cost rate for the specific contract and adjust contract costs based upon an audited final rate. Only the consultant and the parties involved in performing the indirect cost audit may dispute the established indirect cost rate. If an error is discovered in the established indirect cost rate, the rate may be disputed by any prospective contracting agency.
(2) Direct salary or wage rates.
(i) Compensation for each employee or classification of employee must be reasonable for the work performed in accordance with the Federal cost principles.
(ii) To provide for fair and reasonable compensation, considering the classification, experience, and responsibility of employees necessary to provide the desired engineering and design related services, contracting agencies may establish consultant direct salary or wage rate limitations or “benchmarks” based upon an objective assessment of the reasonableness of proposed rates performed in accordance with the reasonableness provisions of the Federal cost principles.
(iii) When an assessment of reasonableness in accordance with the Federal cost principles has not been performed, contracting agencies shall use and apply the consultant's actual direct salary or wage rates for estimation, negotiation, administration, and payment of contracts and contract modifications.
(3) Fixed fee.
(i) The determination of the amount of fixed fee shall consider the scope, complexity, contract duration, degree of risk borne by the consultant, amount of subcontracting, and professional nature of the services as well as the size and type of contract.
(iii) Fixed fees in excess of 15 percent of the total direct labor and indirect costs of the contract may be justified only when exceptional circumstances exist.
(c) Oversight -
(1) Agency controls. Contracting agencies shall provide reasonable assurance that consultant costs on contracts reimbursed in whole or in part with FAHP funding are allowable in accordance with the Federal cost principles and consistent with the contract terms considering the contract type and payment method. Contracting agency written policies, procedures, contract documents, and other controls, as specified in §§ 172.5(c) and 172.9 shall address the establishment, acceptance, and administration of contract costs to assure compliance with the Federal cost principles and requirements of this section.
(2) Risk-based analysis. The STAs or other recipient may employ a risk-based oversight process to provide reasonable assurance of consultant compliance with Federal cost principles on FAHP funded contracts administered by the recipient or its subrecipients. If employed, this risk-based oversight process shall be incorporated into STA or other recipient written policies and procedures, as specified in § 172.5(c). In addition to ensuring allowability of direct contract costs, the risk-based oversight process shall address the evaluation and acceptance of consultant and subconsultant indirect cost rates for application to contracts. A risk-based oversight process shall consist of the following:
(i) Risk assessments. Conducting and documenting an annual assessment of risks of noncompliance with the Federal cost principles per consultant doing business with the agency, considering the following factors:
(B) Number of States in which the consultant operates;
(C) Experience of consultant with FAHP contracts;
(D) History and professional reputation of consultant;
(F) Type and complexity of consultant accounting system;
(G) Size (number of employees or annual revenues) of consultant;
(I) Assessment of consultant's internal controls;
(J) Changes in consultant organizational structure; and
(K) Other factors as appropriate.
(ii) Risk mitigation and evaluation procedures. Allocating resources, as considered necessary based on the results of the annual risk assessment, to provide reasonable assurance of compliance with the Federal cost principles through application of the following types of risk mitigation and evaluation procedures appropriate to the consultant and circumstances:
(B) Certified public accountant or other STA workpaper reviews;
(C) Other analytical procedures;
(iii) Documentation. Maintaining supporting documentation of the risk-based analysis procedures performed to support the allowability and acceptance of consultant costs on FAHP funded contracts.
(3) Consultant cost certification.
(i) Indirect cost rate proposals for the consultant's 1-year applicable accounting period shall not be accepted and no agreement shall be made by a contracting agency to establish final indirect cost rates, unless the costs have been certified by an official of the consultant as being allowable in accordance with the Federal cost principles. The certification requirement shall apply to all indirect cost rate proposals submitted by consultants and sub consultants for acceptance by a STA or other recipient. Each consultant or subconsultant is responsible for certification of its own indirect cost rate and may not certify the rate of another firm.
(ii) The certifying official shall be an individual executive or financial officer of the consultant's organization at a level no lower than a Vice President or Chief Financial Officer, or equivalent, who has the authority to represent the financial information utilized to establish the indirect cost rate proposal submitted for acceptance.
(iii) The certification of final indirect costs shall read as follows:
This is to certify that I have reviewed this proposal to establish final indirect cost rates and to the best of my knowledge and belief:
1. All costs included in this proposal (identify proposal and date) to establish final indirect cost rates for (identify period covered by rate) are allowable in accordance with the cost principles of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) of title 48, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 31; and
2. This proposal does not include any costs which are expressly unallowable under applicable cost principles of the FAR of 48 CFR part 31.
(4) Sanctions and penalties. Contracting agency written policies, procedures, and contract documents, as specified in §§ 172.5(c) and 172.9(c), shall address the range of administrative, contractual, or legal remedies that may be assessed in accordance with Federal and State laws and regulations where consultants violate or breach contract terms and conditions. Where consultants knowingly charge unallowable costs to a FAHP funded contract:
(i) Contracting agencies shall pursue administrative, contractual, or legal remedies and provide for such sanctions and penalties as may be appropriate; and
(ii) Consultants are subject to suspension and debarment actions as specified in 2 CFR part 1200 and 2 CFR part 180, potential cause of action under the False Claims Act as specified in 32 U.S.C. 3729-3733, and prosecution for making a false statement as specified in 18 U.S.C. 1020.
(d) Prenotification; confidentiality of data. FHWA, recipients, and subrecipients of FAHP funds may share audit information in complying with the recipient's or subrecipient's acceptance of a consultant's indirect cost rates pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 112 and this part provided that the consultant is given notice of each use and transfer. Audit information shall not be provided to other consultants or any other government agency not sharing the cost data, or to any firm or government agency for purposes other than complying with the recipient's or subrecipient's acceptance of a consultant's indirect cost rates pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 112 and this part without the written permission of the affected consultants. If prohibited by law, such cost and rate data shall not be disclosed under any circumstance; however, should a release be required by law or court order, such release shall make note of the confidential nature of the data.