Watchdog to probe issues related to National Institutes of Health grants

Nonprofit research foundation EcoHealth Alliance utilized federal money to support gain-of-function research at a facility in Wuhan, China, according to the Epoch Times.
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Department of Health and Human Services building in 2006
Department of Health and Human Services building in 2006
(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General is examining issues pertaining to National Institutes of Health grants in a probe prompted by Sen. Joni Ernst's request that the watchdog scrutinize the failure of non-profit research foundation EcoHealth Alliance to follow federal disclosure requirements regarding how it utilized NIH grant money.

"That’s what the OIG is looking into is [EcoHealth's] failure to comply with federal law," the Iowa Republican told reporters in her office on Tuesday, according to the Epoch Times. "As well as finding the origins of the virus, we also need to, besides following the science, we need to follow the money."

The outlet reported that EcoHealth has utilized federal money to support gain-of-function research at a facility in Wuhan, China.

"Just some numbers so everybody can see how big a problem this is, just to EcoHealth alone, and never mind all the other grantees the OIG might identify as violating the law, EcoHealth has gotten $61.5 million in taxpayer money since 2008," White Coat Waste Project's vice president of advocacy and public policy Justin Goodman told reporters during the session with the Iowa senator, according to the Epoch Times. "Just since the pandemic began, they’ve gotten $19 million, and that's $17 million from the [Department of Defense] DOD and over $2 million from NIH," he said. "So even though [EcoHealth] has been violating the law, NIH has been notified they've been violating the law, NIH continues to cut checks to the EcoHealth Alliance, both for research they're doing in China and other places."

"OIG has previously identified NIH's oversight of grants to foreign applicants as a potential risk to the Department meeting program goals and the appropriate use of Federal funds. NIH must manage and administer Federal awards to ensure that Federal funding is expended and associated programs are implemented in full accordance with statutory and public policy requirements. To do so, NIH must monitor grantee performance and grantee use of NIH funds. Grantees are responsible for complying with all requirements of the Federal award, including maintaining effective internal controls over the Federal award," the HHS Office of the Inspector General has noted.

"Grantees that function as pass-through entities must monitor the activities of subrecipients, including foreign subrecipients, to ensure that subawards are used for authorized purposes in compliance with relevant laws and the terms and conditions of the subaward," the watchdog said. "We will review NIH's monitoring of selected grants, and grantee use and management of NIH grant funds in accordance with Federal requirements."