CDC Lost $22 Million Worth Of Computers And Equipment, Congressmen Charge

Congressmen are calling for an investigation into the losses that include the 2002 theft of $500,000 worth of new Dell and Compaq computers from a CDC warehouse.
Two Congressmen are asking the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the disappearance of $22 million worth of computers and scientific equipment at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), ranking member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, sent a letter to Daniel Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, asking him to audit property throughout the CDC. Last month, a congressional oversight committee made a similar request.

"The CDC does a world-class job of investigating illness and disease," Barton said in a written statement. "To say that CDC can find a germ hiding in a hut in Africa is an understatement, so why can't it find its own computers? The inspector general needs to completely and immediately audit the CDC property management system to stop the bleeding of taxpayer-owned property. In cases of theft, we also need to know what's happened to the thieves."

According to the congressmen, 1,339 missing property reports, covering $2 million worth of stolen and missing property, were filed within the CDC. That includes a March 24, 2002 burglary at a CDC warehouse where $500,000 of brand new Dell and Compaq computers were stolen. While the CDC reported that the machines were never recovered, the congressmen said in the letter that staff members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce believe that an investigator with the Office of the Inspector General may have bought and recovered some of the equipment on eBay.

However, the congressmen said that as of Feb. 22, 2007, the CDC reported 5,547 missing items worth more than $22 million.

Barton and Whitfield noted that it has been more than 10 years since the last audit of CDC property management.

"With more than $22 million of taxpayers' money unaccounted for and 10 years since their last audit, it is crucial for the inspector general to immediately perform a thorough audit of CDC's property," Whitfield said in a written statement. "Government agencies have the responsibility of being good stewards with taxpayers' money, and from what I can tell the CDC has been anything but responsible on this matter."

This past February, the Justice Department's Inspector General reported that three to four laptops are lost or stolen from the FBI every month.

While 116 FBI laptops were reported lost and 44 were reported stolen in the last 44 months, the agency is doing better than it was five years ago, the DOJ's audit said of one of the nation's top investigative agencies. Another audit, conducted in 2002, showed that in a 28-month period 300 FBI laptops had been lost and 17 had been stolen.

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