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Audit finds CDC misplaced $8 million in equipment

- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 29, 2010

ATLANTA (AP) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lost or misplaced more than $8 million in property in 2007, losing track of items including computer and video equipment, government auditors say.

Agency officials said Wednesday they have corrected the lapses that led to that amount of waste.

The report was released this week by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of the CDC. In 2007, the auditors checked on 200 randomly sampled items and found 15 were lost or not inventoried, including a $1.8 million hard disk drive and a $978,000 video conferencing system.

CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden wrote the inspector general that the CDC agrees with the report's conclusions and has now instituted better controls. He wrote that 99 percent of the agency's property was accounted for in 2009. And the agency says all of its property this year is accounted for.

The agency still hasn't explained what happened to the 15 pieces of missing equipment from 2007, auditors said. But a CDC spokeswoman on Wednesday said all but four of the items _ including the two most expensive ones _ have since been accounted for.

CDC officials were tsk-tsked by Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

"It's just a good thing they haven't lost any diseases," Schatz said.

The Atlanta-based CDC often gets high marks for how well it does at its core mission of promoting health and investigating outbreaks of illness. But it has less incentive to keep track of its computer equipment or take care of other concerns that would seem important to a private business, Schatz said.

"There are a lot of agencies that do their job well, but they don't manage the `little things' very well. The Defense Department is notorious for losing all kinds of equipment, but they do a pretty good job defending the country," Schatz said.

The CDC is the only HHS agency to have had such an audit _ the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have not.

This is the CDC's second audit. A 1995 audit found the agency was unable to account for more than $5.5 million in property, including computers, microscopes and even vehicles.

In 2007, two House Republicans _ Joe Barton of Texas and Greg Walden of Oregon _ asked the inspector general to take a new look at how CDC inventories and tracks its property, following allegations that as much as $22 million in CDC equipment had been lost or stolen.

The audit focused on the $350 million in equipment CDC had in fiscal year 2007. The report was delayed until now partly because of personnel changes within the inspector general's office, auditors said.

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Online:

Office of Inspector General report: http://www.oig.hhs.gov/oas/reports/region4/40701054.asp

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