House Committee Requests HHS Investigation of Potential Misuse of NIH Grants
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) this week wrote HHS asking Inspector General Daniel Levinson to investigate possible "widespread disparities" among the amount of research activity estimated by NIH grant recipients and the amount of research being completed, the Wall Street Journal reports. Out of its $28 billion annual budget, NIH awards more than $20 billion for grants, most of them to universities.
In the letter, Barton and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chair of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, wrote, "The alleged misuse of NIH grant funds raises serious public policy concern of waste, effectiveness and integrity of taxpayer-supported research programs." Several universities, including the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, since 2003 have settled cases with the federal government involving alleged misuse of NIH grants.
In a second letter sent to Levinson this week, Barton and Whitfield asked HHS to investigate possible misuse of NIH funds to pay tuition of graduate students. The letter questioned whether "federal taxpayer dollars have been used by state universities to compensate graduate research assistants for tuition rather than for their actual work on programs funded by NIH." The letter said that the committee recently obtained evidence that the practice of "unreasonable compensation" to graduate students at three universities might still be prevalent after past examinations.
Levinson's office confirmed that it had received the letters but declined to comment on them (Wysocki, Wall Street Journal, 9/22).