Employees at the University of Washington (UW) blew thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds intended to foster scientific research on purchases such as deluxe Snuggies and tableware, a recent audit has revealed.
The audit, conducted by the Office of the Inspector General at the National Science Foundation (NSF), covers three years and $296 million in NSF-funded spending conducted by UW. The audit, released in February, uncovered about $2 million in dubious spending by UW over the three-year period. The vast majority occurred in the form of excessive salaries paid out to various administrators, but some of the expenditures were of a more absurd bent.
Specifically, auditors identified $8,821 in “unreasonable and unallowable” spending by UW. Of that amount, a whopping $1,179 was spent to purchase specially embroidered Snuggies, the popular infomercial fixture that combines a robe and a blanket while making one resemble a wizard. In addition, over $4,000 was spent on sundry consumer goods including canvas bags, tablecloths and even more custom Snuggies.
UW was also faulted for spending thousands to purchase equipment, such as personal computers, just days before its grants expired, apparently in an effort to spend as much as possible before the gravy train ran dry. A $23,000 trip to Hawaii was also categorized as an unjustified use of NSF funds, because UW employees defended it solely on the grounds that they used “free research time to work on the NSF award while in Hawaii.”
The audit notes that the improper spending was handled by having the school “transfer the costs” in question, presumably by reclassifying the expenses to have them financed from some other source.
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