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Bureaucrats Improperly Raided Millions From Public Health Research Fund In Leadup To COVID-19, Inspector General Finds

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Dylan Housman General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Federal bureaucrats improperly raided millions of dollars from a public health emergency fund to spend on unrelated expenses, an investigation by the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) reportedly found. 

The money was taken from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), according to The Washington Post. BARDA is a part of HHS that researches and develops vaccines, drugs and other therapies to combat public health issues. 

The investigation was reportedly spawned by a whistleblower who alleged that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within HHS had been improperly using funds from 2010-2019 under both the Obama and Trump administrations. 

The inspector general’s investigation substantiated many of the allegations from the whistleblower, the Post reported. It was reportedly concluded that the agency violated the Purpose Statute, which is meant to ensure that funds allocated by Congress to federal agencies are only used for particular purposes. (RELATED: Biden’s Energy Nominee Divvied Millions In Taxpayer Funds To Alternative Energy Startups That Went Bankrupt)

A specific dollar amount for the money that was improperly used is not available, but the inspector general’s office told the Post they are “confident” the number is in the millions. The inspector general’s office reportedly said that the agency “would likely fail” to justify how $517 million in management and administration funds were used during the decade in question. 

The investigation also found that BARDA spent nearly a million dollars between 2013 and 2017 on salaries for employees that did not work there, the Post reported. Another reported impropriety was that BARDA had spent money on having furniture removed from an office that did not belong to them. 

The investigation was overseen by the Office of Special Counsel, which sent a letter to President Joe Biden Wednesday.

“I am deeply concerned about [the] apparent misuse of millions of dollars in funding meant for public health emergencies like the one our country is currently facing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” special counsel Henry Kerner wrote. “Equally concerning is how widespread and well-known this practice appeared to be.”