The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
has systematicaly spent much
of its CFIDS budget on other programs since 1995, according to a report issued May 12 by the Inspector
General of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Of the $22.7 million charged to the CFIDS
program in fiscal years 1995 through 1998, only $9.8 million, or 43%, was actually spent on the CFIDS
program. At least $8.8 million, or 39%, was spent on other programs. The remaining $4.1 million consisted
of indirect costs that were not sufficiently documented to tell whether they should have been charged
to the CFIDS program.
While it is not illegal to spend money budgeted for one program on another,
the report states: "It is clear that Congress expected the agency to spend the amount it budgets for CFS
only on CFS. As a result of these inappropriate charges, CDC officials provided inaccurate information
to Congress regarding the use of CFS funds, and have not supported the CFS program to the extent recommended
and encouraged by Congress."
CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan has agreed to make recommended changes
in the agency's accounting systems and to limit fund transfers.
Dr. Koplan also has "committed
to share a comprehensive spending plan for the CFS program with the national CFS advisory committee, the
Congress, and nonprofit organizations providing support services to CFS patients."
Executive Director Kim Kenney said the findings came as no surprise.
"We have suspected for some
time that the funds we fought so hard for on Capitol Hill never made it to CFIDS research labs. We are
outraged and will not let this matter rest. We want the funds restored and the responsible parties held
personally accountable. This is a betrayal of trust-in medicine and government," Ms. Kenney said.
Inspector General's audit resulted from allegations in July 1998 by Dr. William Reeves, who is in charge
of the CDC's CFIDS research program, that his division director, Dr. Brian Mahy, had diverted CFIDS funds
and presented false information as to the actual expenditures on CFIDS research. The audit report confirmed
those charges, but it stopped short of suggesting a deliberate attempt to mislead Congress or to undermine
the CFIDS program.
The report states that the division director (Dr. Mahy) justified the transfer
of CFIDS costs to "ensure that other division programs were sufficiently funded" and that he "consistently
overstated the extent of effort devoted to CFS research." The report places the blame on "basic deficiencies
in CDC's internal control system" that failed to require justification for cost transfers.
Kenney responded: "Where is the accountability? We were promised science, research and a high level of
commitment to fighting this disorder. CDC officials went to Capitol Hill and lied to members of Congress.
Those were taxpayer dollars, not some CDC piggybank."
The Inspector Generalís report was released while our Lobby Day
meeting with members of Congress, who were outraged by the reportís conclusions. You can help us respond
by writing to your representatives in Congress. Let them know we want the misspent money restored to the
CFIDS research program, where it is needed. More on our response will follow in the next issue and on
our web site, www.cfids.org. Weíll link to the report as soon as itís
posted. To obtain a printed copy, see D.C. Dispatch this issue.
Background: Association questions led to disclosure
While the Association
has always attempted
to monitor federal spending on CFIDS, in 1997 we grew increasingly concerned about where the money was
going and we turned up the heat. We asked for and got a warning from Congress that CDC would be asked
to report in detail its spending on CFIDS. On Jan. 13, 1998, Association Executive Director Kim Kenney
met with CDC officials and elicited their pledge to provide a complete breakdown of CFIDS spending. When
that arrived in March 1998, it raised more questions than it answered. Ms. Kenney pressed for more detail
at the CFS Coordinating Committee meeting that April and was given what proved to be inaccurate answers.
Those same misrepresentations were made to Congress. Because of that, and because funds were not available
for a planned pediatric study in Wichita, Kansas, that summer, Dr. William Reeves, the CDCís CFIDS program
director, blew the whistle on his agency.
The Association was instrumental in Reevesí effort to
call attention to the misspending of CFIDS funds. For details, refer to the D.C. Dispatch columns since
March/April 1998 and particularly to the September/October 1998 issue, which included Dr. Reevesí formal
allegations and an interview with Kim Kenney and Association lobbyist Tom Sheridan.