HIV/AIDS: Lawmakers Request GAO Audit
In an effort to ensure that federal HIV/AIDS funds actually provide their intended services, three high-ranking House Republicans Tuesday sent a letter to the General Accounting Office requesting audits and performance evaluations of all federal HIV/AIDS programs. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), House Commerce Committee Chair Tom Bliley (R-VA) and House Commerce subcommittee vice chair Tom Coburn (R-OK) requested that the GAO take a look at AIDS Drug Assistance Program distributions, Ryan White CARE Act programs, salaries of top administrators in AIDS service organizations and the proportion of funding spent on care versus administrative overhead. "Congress has a moral obligation to those suffering with AIDS/HIV to ensure that the nearly $9 billion directed to federal AIDS programs is spent for purposes for which it is intended," Coburn said, adding, "Over the past five years ... [t]here have been instances in which AIDS dollars have been used for political campaigns, programs that condone illegal drug use and programs that fail to fairly distribute funds to women and minorities." Pointing to a recent U.S. News & World Report article that found nearly $2 million of U.S. funds earmarked for AIDS programs were actually diverted to finance political campaigns in Puerto Rico, and several other cases of reportedly misspent AIDS funding, Coburn expressed "concern that these examples may represent a widespread pattern of abuse." The audit, he said, would "spotlight lapses in accountability" (Coburn release, 4/20).
Not So Fast
AIDS Action Executive Director Daniel Zingale immediately blasted the legislators' request, calling it "nothing less than a politically motivated attempt to raise doubts about the fight against AIDS and the community-based service organizations leading that fight." He added that if the audit is conducted, "we expect the [GAO] will conduct it fairly, equitably and free of the political influences of those who are beginning the process" (AIDS Action release, 4/20).