Chemical and Biological Medical Supplies Are Poorly Managed
T-HEHS/AIMD-00-59: Published: Mar 8, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 8, 2000.
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its recent report on the management of federal medical stockpiles that would be used to treat civilians in a chemical or biological terrorist attack.
GAO noted that: (1) the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Marine Corps Chemical and Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) did not have basic internal controls to help them manage their stockpiles; (2) as a result, the inventory GAO conducted identified a number of items; (3) in one location, for example, GAO found 1,000 fewer diazepam injectors than required; (4) this drug, commonly known as valium, would be administered to calm victims and control their convulsions; (5) although VA contends that it stockpiled a substitute, it could not provide written documentation of OEP's approval at the time of the substitution; (6) at another location, the entire supply of 2,000 vials of amyl nitrate--an antidote for cyanide poisoning--had expired; (7) GAO also found incorrectly recorded expiration dates and lot numbers, which are necessary to keep supplies current and respond to potential manufacturer recalls; (8) internal control is a major part of managing an organization, and it comprises the plan, methods, and procedures used to meet missions, goals, and objectives--in this case, protecting the public health against the effects of chemical and biological attacks; (9) internal control serves as the first line of defense in safeguarding assets, like the stockpiles, and helps prevent and detect errors in managing the medical supplies; (10) without internal control, these agencies cannot provide reasonable assurance that all medical supplies and pharmaceuticals required to be stockpiled are current, accounted for, and available for use; (11) further, none of the agencies conducted periodic inventories of the stocks they had on hand and compared the results with their required levels; (12) in addition, security was lax at some stockpile locations; (13) GAO found comingling of stockpiled items with other VA medical center pharmaceuticals, sometimes in unsecured refrigerators; (14) while CBIRF's overall security was much better, it could not ensure that proper access was maintained because no sign-in procedures of logs were kept for recording access to its warehouse and trucks where medical supplies are stored; and (15) the agencies also did not follow the standards for segregating duties among different staff, which are intended to reduce the risk of error and fraud.