Millions allocated to vaccine research fund misused for years, US special counsel says

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said millions of dollars in federal HHS funding intended for vaccine research and emergency preparedness were misused for at least a decade, The Hill reported Jan. 27. 

Congress appropriated the funding to HHS's Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The money, meant for that agency's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, was allegedly spent on administrative expenses, legal services, unrelated salaries and, in one instance, the removal of office furniture, according to a report from HHS's Office of Inspector General cited by the Hill. 

"I am deeply concerned about [the Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response's] apparent misuse of millions of dollars in funding meant for public health emergencies like the one our country is currently facing with the COVID-19 pandemic," Henry Kerner, U.S. special counsel, said in a news release cited by the Hill. "I urge Congress and HHS to take immediate actions to ensure funding for public health emergencies can no longer be used as a slush-fund for unrelated expenses." 

The HHS report says the assistant secretary's office "improperly" took about $25 million from the biomedical agency and was not able to account for more than $517 million in administrative expenditures from 2007-16, according to the Hill. The report doesn't specify how much total funding was misused. 

HHS has hired an independent accounting firm to audit the biomedical agency's funding in response to the findings. 

More articles on public health:
17 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Jan. 27
Confirmed UK variant cases, by state
A look at 4 historical US vaccination campaigns


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