Corporate Compliance

Senate committee: OIG needs to investigate potential financial abuses in research

Compliance Monitor, September 28, 2005

Research at some of the country's top universities may soon be the target of a major OIG investigation.

House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders have asked the Department of Health and Human Services to direct the OIG to investigate alleged misuse of millions of federal dollars at the universities.

In the past 17 months, the Justice Department has reached settlements with Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, the Mayo Clinic, and others over claims that they misspent federal grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"The alleged misuse of NIH grant funds raises serious public policy concerns of waste, effectiveness, and integrity of taxpayer-supported research programs," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., wrote in a letter this week.

The committee has asked HHS to take the following steps:

  • Determine whether there are widespread disparities between the numbers of research activities grantees projected to obtain taxpayer funds from the NIH and the numbers of research activities actually performed with these funds

  • Audit some clinical research grants to review the number of research activities each respective institution projected to the NIH and what research activities these institutions actually performed

  • Look for discrepancies such as false statements, improper accounting, improper charges, and double-billing of the Medicaid program for in-patient fees charges

  • Review new allegations that the University of California at Davis used NIH grant money to compensate graduate research assistants at rates approaching six times the salary of more experienced, post-doctoral researchers
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