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Inquiry Into NASA Finances Looks at Ex-Chief

By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2005; Page A30

A congressional investigation of misuse of funds at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is focusing in on possible abuses by recently departed NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, asked the Government Accountability Office last year to investigate "serious financial problems at NASA," she said in a letter.

"I am concerned about whether NASA has an effective system of internal controls to prevent fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer resources," Collins wrote in the June 28 letter. Collins asked GAO, Congress's investigative arm, to perform a series of audits of NASA's internal financial controls.

In a story from Baton Rouge, La., yesterday, the AP cited unnamed former and current NASA officials as saying that the GAO is looking at O'Keefe's questionable use of costly government aircraft instead of commercial flights and his penchant for holding retreats with subordinates far from NASA's Washington headquarters.

NASA spokesman Glenn Mahone said that "the agency is not aware of any investigation" of O'Keefe. "I think we would be aware if there had been any investigation."

O'Keefe left NASA this week to take a job as chancellor of Louisiana State University beginning Monday. Former O'Keefe deputy Frederick Gregory is serving as interim administrator until a permanent replacement is named.

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