Allegations of Misspending Were Unsubstantiated

GAO-04-618R: Published: Apr 30, 2004. Publicly Released: May 18, 2004.

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Leslie G. Aronovitz
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The Department of Health and Human Service's (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) plays a vital role in auditing and investigating allegations of fraud and abuse in federal health and welfare programs. Because it independently evaluates various programs, activities, and functions, the OIG must act with integrity at all times. In the fall of 2003, anonymous allegations charged that certain officials in the HHS OIG's Office of Evaluation and Inspections (OEI) sponsored training and management meetings for nonwork purposes and improperly renovated a regional office. The allegations primarily focused on the actions of the Acting OEI Deputy Inspector General in relation to specific events that took place from July through September 2003. The allegations charged that she (1) sponsored training at a Florida resort to facilitate vacation time for staff, (2) scheduled several follow-up training meetings as a way of providing staff with leisure time, and (3) held a managers' meeting in New York as a pretext for participants to attend a retirement celebration for one of OEI's managers. A fourth allegation charged that the Acting OEI Deputy Inspector General, along with an Acting OEI Regional Inspector General, improperly renovated and refurnished office space in one of OEI's regions. This report examines these allegations.

In summary, we found no basis for the allegations against the Acting OEI Deputy Inspector General and an Acting Regional Inspector General regarding the sponsorship of training and other meetings and the completion of office renovations. We found that those responsible for organizing OEI training and management meetings followed HHS and OIG requirements for planning and approving these activities. Further, we did not find evidence to support the allegations that the training included leisure activities during business hours at the Florida training, the follow-up training meetings, and the New York meeting. According to the agendas and to OIG officials, the Florida and follow-up training meetings provided staff with details on organizational goals and evaluation skills, and served as an exchange of information on analytical approaches. Likewise, attendees at the New York managers' meeting concentrated on OEI management related issues. With respect to allegations of inappropriate renovations in one of OEI's regional offices, documents that we reviewed indicated that OEI officials followed applicable GSA and OIG policies to reconfigure office space and purchase furniture.

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