Completed audit doubles initial reports The University improperly billed research sponsors, including the government, $402,000 in research-related costs in 1987, federal auditors revealed last month. University Comptroller Alfred Beers called the findings relatively minor, noting that the $402,000 equals only one-half of one percent of the indirect research allocations the University received in 1987. This figure, compiled from the completed audit, far exceeds the $231,604 misspending revealed through federal hearings in May. But it is far less than the $1 million some federal sources predicted would be uncovered when the audit of 1987 expenses was completed. Beers said this week the $402,000 amount refers to costs related not just to federal research, but also to private research which the government has no jurisdiction over. Government funding does, however, constitute approximately 75 percent of research. The new list of innappropriate charges revealed at the University includes: $6,000 in meals at the Faculty Club, $14,500 in travel expenses, $73,800 in administering gifts and trusts and $24,354 in salary and office help for the Reverend Stanley Johnson. During the hearings in mid-May, congressional sources said administrators also improperly used taxpayers' money to pay for alumni relations expenses and flowers and supplies for President Sheldon Hackney's campus home. Beers said University officials dispute that some of the specific charges are inappropriate under current federal guidelines. The $402,000 in 1987 expenses was billed to the government as indirect research overhead, money universities charge for the administration of federally-funded research. This amount does not include the maintenance charges associated with research. The University's misspending makes it one of a growing number of institutions that overcharged the government for research overhead in the past decade. Stanford University sparked the federal probe last spring when a congressional subcomittee uncovered close to $200 million in overcharges to the government. Stanford administrators used the money to pay for the school's shopping center and to refurbish the University's yacht. Since the investigation began, auditors have uncovered misspending at 24 other schools, including Dartmouth College, Yale University, Duke University and the University of Southern California. Federal officials said the government plans to audit 260 schools in the full investigation. Dennis Fitzgibbons, spokesperson for the Congressional subcommittee conducting the investigation, said this week that despite the expanding review, he is not sure the problems uncovered at Stanford are actually widespread. "There have been problems at each of the schools auditors have looked at," Fitzgibbons said. "But there were pre-judgements made. When those misappropriations were revealed at Stanford the obvious question was 'were they wiedespread?' " Fitzgibbons said federal officials have not yet determined what steps will be taken to recover the money lost at universities around the country, noting that the investigation will not be completed for a few years. Administrators and government officials have said throughout the probe that federal guidelines on indirect research overhead are too vague and lead to misunderstandings about what charges are allowable. The federal Office of Management and Budget recently released proposals narrowing the scope of the regulations.Comments powered by Disqus
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