Auditors Recommend USC Return Nearly $1 Million
For HIV/AIDS Training Lapse
Federal auditors have recommended the University of Southern California repay or forfeit more than $1 million in government funds following lapses in its training program for HIV/AIDS counselors for minority communities.
Federal officials shut down the university’s program in 2001 amid concerns about conflicts of interest, improper research procedures and misuse of federal funds.
The resulting audit released recently said officials found more evidence of the problems and claimed the program failed to train the HIV/AIDS counselors.
The university acknowledged mistakes and said it followed recommendations from regulators to improve its practices. But it disputed the auditor’s suggestion that it return $1.08 million of the $1.27 million in federal funds spent on the effort.
Major errors cited by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services auditors include the university’s alleged failure to correct a conflict of interest involving an official hired by USC to oversee the project.
The audit claims money charged to the government was improperly channeled to unrelated activities of the USC official’s nonprofit organization.
The former official, identified by USC as Phill Wilson, did not comment on the audit.
Auditors also found problems with documented expense claims submitted for wages, travel, consulting services, and public relations, among other expenses.
Additionally, the audit indicates that a portion of the questionable $1.8 million pending was unauthorized, saying program officials didn’t have participants sign the appropriate forms that met USC and federal requirements.
The case was referred for additional review to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, which was USC’s partner in the program, said Donald White, a spokesman for Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General. It was also forwarded to another unit in the Health and Human Services Department.
The university said it will appeal to lower the amount it will need to give the government.
“We really had tried to take some proactive steps in this case, and I think we successfully did,” said Laura L. LaCorte, senior associate vice president in the office of compliance at USC.
— Associated Press
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