The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is approving funding for studies that had not met their own research goals, jeopardizing millions in taxpayer dollars, according to an agency watchdog.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that the agency approved 13 percent of awards for additional funding, even though they did not know how the projects were progressing.
"NIH grant files were largely complete, but our review found weaknesses in the oversight of grantee progress during the life of the grants," an OIG audit said. "Specifically, we found weaknesses in NIH’s review of progress reports."
"NIH approved 13 percent of awards for funding despite the fact that the awardee did not provide required information regarding its progress towards project objectives," the OIG said. "NIH awarded $7.2 million to four awardees that reported not meeting established goals or removing a goal. Although NIH policy requires program staff to determine whether awardee progress towards stated goals is satisfactory or not satisfactory, it does not require a written statement to support those determinations."
The audit said there was no evidence that NIH staff "were aware of the lack of progress or removal of goals" of the four projects, but approved over $7 million in funding anyway.