E&C Committee Presses NIH for Information into Misallocated Funds and Grants that May Harm Agency Regulations

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) today, in a letter to Dr. Lawrence Tabak, the senior official who is performing the duties of Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) requested information from the NIH regarding grants that have been misallocated or grants with low or de minimis value that have the potential to harm the Institutes’ reputation. 


“We are interested in learning more about how, and to what extent, institutes and centers are implementing audit recommendations related to misallocated funds.” 


“In addition, the NIH apparently has a significant number of grants of low or de minimis value ($1,000 or less) that have been awarded. Based on a Majority Committee staff search of the NIH Reporter system, there are 292 grants in this low dollar category ($1,000 or less).” 


These low dollar awards have the effect of establishing a relationship between an entity and NIH but with no apparent research value associated with the award itself. It is our understanding from reviewing the terms of NIH grant documents that, unless the funds are drawn, the NIH protections, reporting requirements, and activity limitations do not apply to the grantee. So, the recipient appears to gain the benefit from its association with the NIH without the burden of the requirements. This may pose a risk to NIH, both in reputation and compliance.” 

The Chairs specifically asked for responses to the following questions by March 27, 2023:

  1. Since January 1, 2015, how many audits have been conducted by the NIH Office of Management Assessment (OMA)? 
  2. Since January 1, 2015, how many audits have been conducted by OMA and identified as a misallocation of funds in an award? 
  3. Since January 1, 2015, how many referrals of audit findings have been made by OMA to institutes and centers? Please specify the number and nature of the audit findings for each institute and center. 
  4. What are the potential actions that an institute or center can take on an audit finding? 
  5. What was the total amount of funds that OMA found in which NIH was entitled to recovery? 
  6. Out of that total amount of funds that OMA found in which NIH was entitled to recovery, what was the total amount of funds actually recovered? 
  7. How frequently are awards audited, and how is the frequency determined? 
  8. How many recommendations did OMA make to the institutes and centers, and how many recommendations were implemented? 
  9. Please produce the results of searching for NIH grants $1,000 or less in the eRA Commons system. 
  10. Has OMA conducted its own search of low value NIH grants? If so, when and why? What were the results? 
  11. How many low dollar grants are currently active? What is the purpose of low dollar grants? 
  12. Are all the U.S. entities listed as low dollar grant recipients owned and controlled by U.S. persons? 
  13. Why are there low dollar grants? Is it an end around some law, regulation, or Congressional requirement? Is it some administrative mechanism created to enable some activity? 
  14. What benefit to NIH is there from low dollar grants? Are there any trends to suggest a lack of impartiality on the part of awards? Is this process being exploited and by whom (perhaps nation states)? 
  15. What is the risk to NIH in such affiliations if in fact awardees are not beholden to the grants policy statement unless they draw the funds? 
  16. Please identify the sub-awardees and explain why there is a sub-awardee on such a small award. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter.