September 27, 2021

News

News Network

The Scripps Research Institute To Pay $10 Million To Settle False Claims Act Allegations Related To Mischarging NIH-Sponsored Research Grants

13 min read
<div>The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has agreed to pay the U.S. $10 million to settle claims that it improperly charged NIH-funded research grants for time spent by researchers on non-grant related activities such as developing, preparing, and writing new grant applications, teaching, and engaging in other administrative activities, the Department of Justice announced today. </div>

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has agreed to pay the U.S. $10 million to settle claims that it improperly charged NIH-funded research grants for time spent by researchers on non-grant related activities such as developing, preparing, and writing new grant applications, teaching, and engaging in other administrative activities, the Department of Justice announced today. 

“The NIH has finite resources to support important research across the nation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “Today’s settlement demonstrates our commitment to protect those resources by ensuring that NIH grants funds are used for the purposes for which they were intended.”

“Federal grant recipients must use the grant funds they receive on tasks that specifically relate to the funded project.  Those that improperly charge the government for costs unrelated to the project must be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice have a duty to protect government resources and ensure they are used appropriately.”

“Taxpayers funds for medical research are finite and the need for scientific advances is great; therefore, it’s critical that these resources are used as intended,” said Special Agent in Charge Maureen R. Dixon, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.  “Working with our law enforcement partners, our investigators will continue to protect these resources so that they are spent appropriately.”

TSRI is a non-profit biomedical research institute with campuses located in Jupiter, Florida and La Jolla, California. TSRI receives millions of dollars in funding from NIH through hundreds of grants each year.  The settlement resolves allegations that between 2008 and 2016, TSRI failed to have a system in place for its faculty to properly account for time spent on activities that cannot be charged directly to NIH-funded projects or are unrelated to the research activities of the NIH-funded project.  Consequently, the U.S. contended that TSRI improperly charged time spent by faculty on developing, preparing, and writing new grant applications directly to existing NIH-funded projects, rather than allocating such charges as indirect costs.  The U.S. also alleged that TSRI improperly charged NIH-funded projects for time spent by its faculty on other activities unrelated to the funded projects, such as teaching, TSRI committee work, and other administrative tasks. 

The settlement resolves allegations originally brought in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by Thomas Burris, Ph.D, a former TSRI employee.  The act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the government for false claims for government funds and to receive a share of any recovery.  Dr. Burris will receive $1.75 million.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, and the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The case is captioned U.S. ex rel. Burris v. The Scripps Research Institute, Case No. 1:15-CV-01443 (D. Md.).  The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

News Network

  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Contingency Contracting: Contractor Personnel Tracking System Needs Better Plans and Guidance
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has assessed resources that it needs to sustain its contract data system, the Global Acquisition and Assistance System (GLAAS), but the Department of Defense (DOD) has not assessed all resources that it will need to sustain the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker–Enterprise Suite (SPOT-ES). DOD, the Department of State (State) and USAID use SPOT-ES as a repository of information on contracts and contractor personnel in contingency operations; USAID also uses GLAAS to record information about contracts. DOD uses the budget process to identify resources it projects it will need in the next budget year to modernize and operate its systems, but DOD has not updated its life-cycle cost estimate or fully defined and assessed its plans to determine all resources needed to sustain SPOT-ES. For example, DOD has not updated its life-cycle cost estimate since 2010, despite changes to costs due to schedule delays, because officials said the system has proven stable. Also, DOD has not defined some of its plans that involve cost elements that need to be included in the estimate because it accepted the system's previous program management estimates as reported. GAO's Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide states that cost estimates should be current and comprehensive. Without regularly updating life-cycle costs and defining and assessing plans to provide a full accounting for the systems' costs, management will have difficulty planning program resource requirements and making decisions. DOD has business rules for the entry of contract and contractor personnel data in SPOT—the database component of SPOT-ES—but lacks reasonable assurance that SPOT provides personnel data that are consistently timely and reliable because the department does not use its available mechanisms for assessing contractor performance to track whether contractors enter data in accordance with the business rules. The business rules, DOD guidance, and an applicable Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement clause describe how contractors and contracting officers are to enter data in SPOT. Using existing mechanisms for tracking contractor performance could provide DOD reasonable assurance that contractors have abided by business rules to enter and provide timely and reliable data. DOD has completed SPOT-ES interoperability testing, but has not fully registered or approved the system's data. DOD Instruction 8320.02 directs heads of DOD components to register authoritative data sources and metadata in DOD's Data Services Environment (DSE), its primary online repository for technical descriptions related to information technology and systems for all authorized users, and provides policy that data will be visible and trusted. GAO found that registration for SPOT-ES data was not completed, although program officials thought they had completed all the steps needed to register the system. Full registration and approval in the DSE would help ensure that data are visible and trusted. Why GAO Did This Study SPOT-ES contains data on almost 1 million contractor personnel who have supported DOD, State, and USAID in contingency operations. Also, USAID's GLAAS provides data, such as award value, for reports to Congress on contract support. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 mandated that GAO review the data systems of DOD, State, and USAID related to certain contract support. This report evaluates the extent to which, among other things, (1) DOD and USAID have assessed resources needed to sustain the systems used to track contracts and contractor personnel; (2) DOD has developed business rules and processes to help ensure the timeliness and reliability of SPOT-ES data; and (3) DOD has completed interoperability testing and registered and approved data for SPOT-ES. GAO reviewed DOD and USAID documents, such as cost schedules, business rules, and user manuals, and interviewed cognizant officials.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Restricts Visas of 100 Nicaraguans Affiliated with Ortega-Murillo Regime
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Update to Secretary Pompeo’s Travel to Asia
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Morgan Ortagus, [Read More…]
  • Assassination of Lebanese Activist Lokman Slim
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Prison Official Charged with Accepting Bribes and Smuggling Contraband into Correctional Institution
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of North Carolina returned an indictment on Oct. 14 charging a North Carolina Department of Public Safety official with a bribery and smuggling scheme that funneled drugs and other contraband into Caledonia Correctional Institution.
    [Read More…]
  • Immigration Detention: Actions Needed to Improve Planning, Documentation, and Oversight of Detention Facility Contracts
    In U.S GAO News
    In fiscal year 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had detention contracts or agreements with 233 facilities, 185 of which it used to hold detainees, as shown below. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention Space Acquisition Methods, Fiscal Year 2019 Acquisition method Total facilities Facilities that held detainees Percentage of average daily population held in facility Intergovernmental service agreement 133 108 59 U.S. Marshals Service rider 85 62 17 Federal Acquisition Regulation-based contract 15 15 24 Total 233 185 100 Source: GAO analysis of ICE data. | GAO-21-149 ICE primarily uses intergovernmental service agreements (IGSA) to acquire detention space. Officials said IGSAs offer several benefits over contracts, including fewer requirements for documentation or competition. ICE has a process for obtaining new detention space, but it did not follow this process for most of its recent acquisitions and does not have a strategic approach to using guaranteed minimum payments in its detention contracts and agreements. From fiscal year 2017 through May 11, 2020, ICE entered into 40 contracts and agreements for new detention space. GAO's review of ICE's documentation found that 28 of 40 of these contracts and agreements did not have documentation from ICE field offices showing a need for the space, outreach to local officials, or the basis for ICE's decisions to enter into them, as required by ICE's process. Until ICE consistently uses its process, it will not have reasonable assurance that it is making cost-effective decisions that best meet its operational needs. ICE has increasingly incorporated guaranteed minimum payments into its contracts and agreements, whereby ICE agrees to pay detention facility operators for a fixed number of detention beds regardless of whether it uses them. However, ICE has not taken a strategic approach to these decisions and has spent millions of dollars a month on unused detention space. Planning for detention space needs can be challenging, according to ICE officials, because the agency must respond to factors that are dynamic and difficult to predict. A strategic approach to using guaranteed minimums could help position ICE to balance these factors and make more effective use of federal funds. ICE relies on Contracting Officer's Representatives (COR) to oversee detention contracts and agreements, but the COR's supervisory structure—where field office management, rather than headquarters, oversee COR work and assess COR performance—does not provide sufficient independence for effective oversight. CORs in eight of 12 field offices identified concerns including lacking resources or support, as well as supervisors limiting their ability to use contract enforcement tools and bypassing CORs' oversight responsibilities in contracting matters. Revising its supervisory structure could help ICE ensure that detention contract and agreement terms are enforced. The Department of Homeland Security's ICE detained approximately 48,500 foreign nationals a day, on average, for 72 hours or more in fiscal year 2019. ICE was appropriated about $3.14 billion in fiscal year 2020 to operate the immigration detention system. ICE has three ways of acquiring detention space—IGSAs with state or local government entities; agreements with Department of Justice U.S. Marshals Service to join an existing contract or agreement (known as a “rider”); or contracts. This report examines (1) what data show about the characteristics of contracts and agreements; (2) the extent to which ICE developed and implemented processes and a strategic approach to acquire space; and (3) the extent to which ICE has overseen and enforced contracts and agreements. GAO reviewed documentation of acquisition and oversight efforts at facilities used to hold detainees for 72 hours or more; analyzed ICE data for the last 3 fiscal years—2017 through 2019; conducted site visits to new and long-standing detention facilities; and interviewed ICE officials. GAO is making five recommendations, including that ICE include stakeholder input and document decision-making for new detention space acquisitions; implement a strategic approach to using guaranteed minimums; and revise its supervisory structure for contract oversight. DHS concurred with four recommendations and disagreed with revising its supervisory structure. GAO believes the recommendation remains valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Used Motor Vehicle Dealers Sentenced in Odometer Tampering Scheme
    In Crime News
    Yesterday, in federal court in Brooklyn, Shmuel Gali was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto to 60 months’ imprisonment for his role in a long-running odometer tampering and money laundering scheme and ordered to pay $3,936,000 in restitution. The defendant pleaded guilty in August 2020 to conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit odometer tampering, making false odometer statements and securities fraud.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Revises Policy Governing Grants Associated with Foreign-Made Unmanned Aircraft Systems
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today announced that its Office of Justice Programs (OJP) has issued a revised policy governing the award of grants for the purchase and operation of foreign-made Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The new policy requires grant recipients to utilize OJP funds to procure and operate UAS only in a manner that promotes public safety, protects individuals’ privacy and civil liberties, and mitigates the risks of cyber intrusion and foreign influence.
    [Read More…]
  • The President’s Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Mongolia Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • DRL FY19 Supporting Transitional Justice in Burma
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Bureau of Democracy, [Read More…]
  • San Antonio man indicted for smuggling cocaine in pickup truck axle
    In Justice News
    A 24-year-old San [Read More…]
  • Hong Kong Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to the [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken to U.S. Mission Canada
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Jayme West and Jim Sharpe of Arizona Morning News on KTAR Phoenix
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Announces the Opening of Nominations for the Fifth Annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing
    In Crime News
    U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today announced the Department of Justice is now accepting nominations for the Fifth Annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing. These awards represent part of the Department of Justice’s on-going commitment to support the nation’s law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe.
    [Read More…]
  • Ohio Man Indicted for Threatening a Local Reproductive Health Services Facility
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Columbus, Ohio, returned an indictment charging an Ohio man for threatening a reproductive health services facility.
    [Read More…]
  • Georgia Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Drinking Water: EPA Could Use Available Data to Better Identify Neighborhoods at Risk of Lead Exposure
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO's statistical analysis indicates that areas with older housing and vulnerable populations (e.g., families in poverty) have higher concentrations of lead service lines in the selected cities GAO examined. By using geospatial lead service line data from the selected water systems and geospatial data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS), GAO identified characteristics of neighborhoods with higher concentrations of lead service lines. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) guidance for water systems on how to identify the location of sites at high-risk of having lead service lines has not been updated since 1991 and many water systems face challenges identifying areas at risk of having lead service lines. By developing guidance for water systems that outlines methods for identifying high-risk locations using publicly available data, EPA could better ensure that public water systems test water samples from locations at greater risk of having lead service lines and identify areas with vulnerable populations to focus lead service line replacement efforts. (See figure for common sources of lead in home drinking water.) Common Sources of Lead in Drinking Water within Homes and Residences EPA has taken some actions to address the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act requirement, which include developing a strategic plan regarding lead in public water systems. However, EPA's published plan did not satisfy the statutory requirement that the agency's strategic plan address targeted outreach, education, technical assistance, and risk communication undertaken by EPA, states, and public water systems. For example, the plan does not discuss public education, technical assistance or risk communication. Instead, EPA's plan focused solely on how to notify households when EPA learns of certain exceedances of lead in their drinking water. Moreover, EPA's plan is not consistent with leading practices for strategic planning. For example, EPA's plan does not set a mission statement or define long-term goals. Developing a strategic plan that meets the statutory requirement and fully reflects leading practices for strategic planning would give EPA greater assurance that it has effectively planned for how it will communicate the risks of lead in drinking water to the public. Lead in drinking water comes primarily from corrosion of service lines connecting the water main to a house or building, pipes inside a building, or plumbing fixtures. As GAO reported in September 2018, the total number of lead service lines in drinking water systems is unknown, and less than 20 of the 100 largest water systems have such data publicly available. GAO was asked to examine the actions EPA and water systems are taking to educate the public on the risks of lead in drinking water. This report examines, among other things: (1) the extent to which neighborhood data on cities served by lead service lines can be used to focus lead reduction efforts; and (2) actions EPA has taken to address WIIN Act requirements, and EPA's risk communication documents. GAO conducted a statistical analysis combining geospatial lead service line and ACS data to identify characteristics of selected communities; reviewed legal requirements and EPA documents; and interviewed EPA officials. GAO is making four recommendations, including that EPA develop (1) guidance for water systems on lead reduction efforts, and (2) a strategic plan that meets the WIIN Act requirement. EPA agreed with one recommendation and disagreed with the others. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are warranted, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.