By Dylan Housman
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and one of its grant recipients, the nonprofit organization EcoHealth Alliance, did not properly monitor where taxpayer money was going and how it was being used on dangerous research, according to a new Inspector General audit.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General conducted an audit of three grants awarded to EcoHealth between 2014 and 2021, totaling $8 million, and subsequent subawards from EcoHealth to eight other recipients, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The IG audit concluded that the NIH and EcoHealth both failed to comply with oversight and monitoring procedures, particularly as it pertained to research at the WIV.
HHS-OIG’s new audit determines whether NIH grants to EcoHealth Alliance were monitored and managed in accordance with federal requirements. Read more: https://t.co/cxqBMp58OK. pic.twitter.com/sJnJGENAu3
— OIG at HHS (@OIGatHHS) January 25, 2023
“Despite identifying potential risks associated with research being performed under the EcoHealth awards, we found that NIH did not effectively monitor or take timely action to address EcoHealth’s compliance with some requirements,” the audit report reads. “Although NIH and EcoHealth had established monitoring procedures, we found deficiencies in complying with those procedures limited NIH and EcoHealth’s ability to effectively monitor Federal grant awards and subawards to understand the nature of the research conducted, identify potential problem areas, and take corrective action.”
EcoHealth Alliance funneled millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money to the WIV over the course of several years to fund dangerous bat virus research. Dr. Anthony Fauci and other government officials have denied that the research funded by the NIH qualified as “gain-of-function” research, which enhances viruses to make them more dangerous to humans. However, many experts have called that a lie.
Gain-of-function research is subject to additional regulatory scrutiny by HHS and was subject to a funding pause between 2014 and 2017, but that additional scrutiny was not applied to the WIV research funded by EcoHealth. Proponents of the lab-leak origin of COVID-19 often argue that dangerous bat virus research being conducted at the WIV may have accidentally led to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Although WIV cooperated with EcoHealth’s monitoring for several years, WIV’s lack of cooperation following the COVID 19 outbreak limited EcoHealth’s ability to monitor its subrecipient,” the report continues. “NIH should assess how it can best mitigate these issues and ensure that it can oversee the use of NIH funds by foreign recipients and subrecipients.”
Among the areas where NIH and EcoHealth fell short were the improper termination of a grant by NIH, an inability for EcoHealth to obtain accurate and complete scientific data from the WIV, and improper use of grant funds by EcoHealth Alliance, the report found.
EcoHealth concurred with the IG’s recommendations for changes going forward, according to the report. The organization was also ordered to pay back nearly $90,000 in unallowable costs to the federal government. (RELATED: Fauci Personally Funded, Edited EcoHealth Study On Bat Viruses After Pandemic Already Began)
EcoHealth Alliance founder Peter Daszak has been a key figure in the suppression of the lab-leak theory of COVID-19 origin. He was initially a member of the first World Health Organization team formed to investigate the origins of COVID-19 in China, before the project was abandoned after critics accused him and others of having a blatant conflict of interest.
Just last month, the Department of Defense awarded a new $3 million grant to EcoHealth for viral spillover monitoring in the Philippines.