Roles & Responsibilities in Accountability, Compliance & Spending

What do I need before I can begin?

Identify the individual’s role (e.g. Principal Investigator, Business Officer) in relation to the award in order to determine their responsibilities in accountability, compliance & spending.


Managing research funds is a significant responsibility which is shared by the University, the department and faculty where the award is administered, and the Principal Investigator (PI) who has the ultimate authority for approving expenditures.

There are a number of policies, processes, and specific roles in place at the University to facilitate ethical, accountable, and transparent research.

A PI who is successful in securing research funding research has the primary responsibility for undertaking and directing activities to achieve the research objectives in accordance with U of T policies and processes.

Roles & Responsibilities in Facilitating or Conducting Research

Principal Investigator (PI)

The PI conducts research and research-related activities ethically and in compliance with policies, terms and conditions. The PI may also oversee a research team. The PI authorizes activity and expenses on a funded research project and any delegation of authority in this regard can only be done by the PI.

The PI is the signing authority on all approved expenditures for the research award and, accordingly, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that expenditures against the research fund meet the following criteria.


Principal, Dean, Academic Director & Chair

The academic leadership ensures that divisional and/or departmental controls are in place and that they are operating effectively. They also provide assurance that university policies and procedures and the terms and conditions set by sponsors and donors are being followed.

As the person to whom the PI directly reports, they do the following.

  • Authorizes all travel planned by the PI
  • Establishes effective review procedures where Chair approval is specifically required , including staff appointment forms and expense reimbursements
  • Sets internal reporting procedures to ensure problems are identified and appropriate action is taken with respect to potential or actual funding deficits and potential conflicts with award terms and conditions or university policy.


Business Officer (BO) or Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)

The BO or CAO implements effective reporting system(s) and manages funds towards specific project goals. They also report problems as they arise.

The BO’s or CAO’s role in award fund management is defined by organizational decisions within the unit, but generally includes some or all of the following.

  • Organize reference materials, such as University of Toronto Research Account (UTRAC) or standard sponsor award notices sponsor guideline publications, and university policy and procedure manuals
  • Ensure that relevant considerations are applied to decisions on hiring and purchasing, including consulting the above reference materials
  • Consult with University support offices as required
  • Process purchases of goods and services authorized by the PI
  • Alert the PI and/or Chair to potential conflicts with award terms and conditions or University policy, which includes review for expense eligibility
  • Alert the PI and/or Chair to potential or actual funding deficits
  • Ensure all award expenditures are processed in the correct sponsor reporting period and, most critically, before the expiry date for the research funding
  • Review the monthly statement of account for completeness and accuracy


Division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation (VPRI)

VPRI staff serve in an advisory role to facilitate and reduce the administrative burden on PIs and their research teams. VPRI Staff also assist in risk mitigation.

As research activity progresses, VPRI staff do the following.

  • Assist academic faculty and staff with problem solving
  • Liaise with the sponsor where changes in budgets or clarification of terms is required (Research Services Office (RSO) / Innovation & Partnerships Office (IPO))
  • Provide advice on the application of University policies, regulations and sponsor terms and conditions, when required (RSO / IPO)
  • Prepare funding invoices and financial statements (Research Oversight & Compliance Office (ROCO))
  • Coordinate audits (ROCO)

The hierarchy of accountability at the University of Toronto shows the roles and levels involved in the research administration.

Forms & Downloads


  • Assist academic faculty and staff with problem solving
  • Liaise with the sponsor when issues arise (RSO / IPO)
  • Provide advice on the application of University or Sponsor regulations and requirements (RSO / IPO)
  • Prepare financial documentation and coordinate audits (ROCO)

VPRI Contact

For information regarding budget and fund end date extensions, please contact the RSO or IPO Research Officer listed in the header section of the UTRAC associated with the specific project.

Find the appropriate VPRI staff member to assist you by checking our staff directory. You may search by discipline area (e.g. Social Sciences, Health & Life Sciences, Natural Sciences or Engineering, etc.) or funding agency name.