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Just Ask!

Dear Just Ask:

Why do we have both X numbers and CAN numbers? Photography asks for an X number. Xeroxing asks for X and CAN. Other departments ask for just the CAN. Mysterious!


Dear Anonymous:

Eugenie Lackey
Photo: Rebecca Kolberg
NIH's accounting system can indeed be mysterious. The use of the X, or universal number, is twofold: it is part of the mechanism that NIH uses to pay for certain frequently used Service and Supply Fund activities, and it allows for tracking of each use of shared facilities, such as the Copy Center or Medical Arts and Photography Branch (MAPB).

Each X number is affiliated with only one CAN, which is established by your institution's budget office to pay for a multitude of various services and personnel costs incurred by your organization. All services and personnel costs generally come out of one or more or-ganizational CANs. Whereas the "status of funds system" (SFS) allows for tracking costs associated with one or more CANs, it does not allow for actual identification of charges against a specific X number. Copy Center and MAPB charges are identified by a particular X number, and the expenditures against a particular X number are tracked through the use of another NIH system called the "Administrative Data Base" (ADB). So, if each person within your organization has an assigned X number at the beginning of the fiscal year, all Copy Center and MAPB charges can be easily traced to the appropriate individual.

If, on the other hand, your organization's CAN is used for all Copy Center and MAPB charges, there is no discernible way to tell who was spending what on Copy Center or MAPB services. It would be impossible to track individual expenditures because the same CAN is being used repeatedly by everyone.

I guess it all comes down to the intricate details of budgetary accountability and the checks and balances that have been set up to ensure that NIH's money is spent appropriately and efficiently. Mystery solved!

-Eugenie Gazdik Lackey,
Administrative Officer, OIR

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