The Office of Special Counsel has told the White House and Congress that HHS has not been fully responsive to an inspector general audit that confirmed allegations by a whistleblower regarding spending by the NIH.
The allegations involved use by the NIH of “other transaction” agreements, which can be used to quickly acquire research and development to support technology advancement but “are considered higher risk because they are generally exempt from the laws and regulations that govern federal contracts,” the OSC said. The audit found that the agency did not adequately document its justification for using them and could not always justify whether the incurred costs were allowable, it said.
In response, it said, HHS has agreed to update its policies and procedures to strengthen internal spending controls but “despite accepting the OIG’s recommendations, HHS concluded that the whistleblower’s allegations were all unsubstantiated, which contradicts the OIG’s findings,” the OSC said.
It said that “the results of the OIG’s audit clearly support a determination that three of the four referred allegations were, at a minimum, partially substantiated. HHS’s refusal to acknowledge as much shows that HHS has failed to take full responsibility for the wrongdoing that was uncovered.”