Extra pay for director. Kazakhstan Project, US Department of State, Vanderbilt University, part 25

What seemed to be a relatively simple budget for the project, turned out to be a confusion. The money allocated by the federal government was spent in different proportion from what it was written in the budget. I even contacted the Director of Sponsored Research, Steve Smart. He replied me with saying that: In my position at Vanderbilt…, which came down to the idea that he does not do this kind of work. Steve Smart later moved to serve as the Associate Dean of Graduate School. The project director once asked for a ballpark estimate of what has left of the grant money. That preceded him awarding himself the extra salary for one month, which at that time was well over $18,000 plus benefits. Needless to say, this salary was not in the approved project budget. Not a bad deal, given that he was already paid from the project budget for his role as the director. This pay included his annual trips to Kazakhstan, and thus there should have not been any extra salary paid for a summer trip to Kazakhstan, especially as it lasted for only around two weeks. But money is never enough. The project was like a cow dumped into a tropical river full of piranhas: everyone wanted to get a bite. There is this culture in research universities that necessitates everyone to get external funding in addition to salary, especially when it comes to summer months. When I asked the project director about the salaries for Caboni and McLendon that were not in the project budget, he responded that he has to attract people somehow, to make them go to Kazakhstan. But that was not in the original project either. With this kind of expenses, it was becoming harder and harder to balance the project budget. We simply saved money with cutting down expenses on essential activities and then awarding this money in form of salaries. This kind of financial maneuvering appeared to be normal in the department, where millions of dollars in research and training grants were appropriated over the last fifteen years.

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