Fauci's infectious disease agency broke federal spending law and rules, audits show

NIAID violated 'time' and 'amount' rules and Anti-Deficiency Act by spending tax dollars before they were appropriated, Inspector General reports show.

Updated: July 22, 2020 - 11:26pm

The National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, the federal agency headed by longtime public health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been cited several times over the years for failing to comply with federal contract and expenditure laws, internal government audits reveal.

As scrutiny of Fauci's role in managing the pandemic grows, the nation's infectious disease specialist has defended himself by citing his long record in government. But that record includes several ethics and patient safety controversies on his watch as well as numerous citations for violating contract "time" and "amount" rules and the Anti-Deficiency Act, a federal law.

A 2011 report by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general is emblematic of the repeated problems. Investigators examined a $54.8 million, multi-year federal contract to help Fauci's agency build and manage a statistical and data coordinating center for medical research project and found NIAID spent tax dollars before they were appropriated by Congress and didn't account for monies as required by federal regulations.

"NIAID did not comply with the time and the amount requirements specified in the statutes. NIAID violated both the bona fide needs rule and the Anti-Deficiency Act by obligating funds in advance of an appropriation," the IG concluded, ordering Fauci's agency to report to Congress it had violated the law. NIH admitted the failures.

Similarly, a 2012 IG report found a $244.5 million multiyear contract NIAID executed for research support wrongly spent monies it did not legally have in one year and failed to spending moneys Congress had ordered for subsequent years.

"NIAID violated the Anti-Deficiency Act by obligating $8.6 million of the $20.9 million in advance of an appropriation and may have violated the Anti-Deficiency Act by obligating significantly less of appropriate fiscal year funds in program years 2 and 4 than required by either the Contract estimate or the actual expenditures incurred," investigators concluded.

The Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits federal agencies "from obligating or expending any amount in advance of or in excess of an appropriation unless specifically authorized by law." Each violation must be reported to Congress and the president.

The audits, which covered multiple contracts stretching between 2005 and 2012, attributed the violations to poor training, and "widespread misunderstanding of appropriations laws because of conflicting .... guidance over the past 25 years."

A spokeswoman for Fauci did not return repeated emails seeking comment.

Fauci has been known across America for several months as a key figures in the government's fight against the coronavirus, serving as a leading representative of the White House's coronavirus task force and having been described as a "de facto leader" of the country's pandemic strategy. 

Yet he has been known longer as the director of the NIAID, the leadership of which he assumed in 1984. His work into AIDS research in particular has been hailed as critical in the fight against that disease. 

Just the News reported Wednesday, however, multiple congressional congressional, government ethics and internal watchdogs found safety or ethics lapses on NIAID research projects dating to 1992, including

  • A 2005 finding that AIDS drug research projects on foster children in New York, Illinois and elsewhere failed to provide promised patient protections, sometimes in violation of legal requirements.
  • A 2004 internal NIH review that concluded Fauci's AIDS research division was a "troubled organization" where managers were creating a hostile atmosphere with "sexually explicit and colorful language" and "seemingly being unaware of the need for appropriate behavior, decorum and enforcement of good management practices and rules of supervision."
  • A pregnant Tennessee woman who died in 2003 after she enrolled in NIH-funded research in hopes of saving her soon-to-be-born son from getting AIDS. A review found that doctors continued to administer an experimental drug regimen despite signs of liver failure.
  • At least 10 children in a pediatric AIDS drug study died in what an investigation concluded was a death toll "significantly higher" than expected and unexplained. 
  • An Office of Government Ethics investigation that cited NIAID for failing to review and clear two-thirds of its workers who were moonlighting in private industry for possible ethical conflicts.
  • A 1992 Department of Health and Human Services inspector general investigation that concluded NIAID failed to police two conflicts of interest in a vaccine experiment.

 

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