A federal education official said yesterday that Health, Education, and Welfare Department inspectors questioned two of his workers about their sex lives after he complained of irregularities in a college aid program.
Frederick A. Will, director of the grants management division in the Office of Education, said the questioning occurred after he had called for an internal investigation of the aid program.
A spokesman for the HEW inspector general's office confirmed Will's complaint, blaming the incident on "relatively inexperienced investigators." He said the questions had been posed in an effort to locate documents needed for an investigation into a program that has channeled $950 million to developing colleges around the country.
The investigators have apologized to the two employes, one male, the other female, the spokesman said HEW's acting inspector general, Richard Lowe, personally apologized to Will "for an unnecessary line of questioning," the spokesman said.
Will told a reporter about the investigators' questions after testifying before a Senate subcommittee. Will charged there that the college aid program was administered so loosely that thousands of dollars were spent each month with virtually no record of what happened to the money.
In his testimony, Will complained that program regulations were regularly flouted to make grants to favored colleges and consulting firms.
Will's boss, Mary F. Berry, an assistant secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, later testified said she was "very understanding" about his "fervent testimony." But she said her department already had started changes to make sure the "deficiencies. . . will not happen again." h
"I have tried to look to the future," Berry told Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who conducted the hearing as chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on limitations of contracted and delegated authority.
"We want to make sure," Berry said, "that none of these excesses harm the program, which is very vital to these institutions."
Since 1965, about $950 million has been spent on the program, which is designed to help colleges that are "struggling for survival. . . (and) isolated from the main currents of academic life." About $120 million has been divided among 407 colleges this year, including 16 in Maryland and Virginia.
Baucus said Will's testimony and the documents his investigators obtained show that the program has been "much abused" and that grants are often made in an "arbitrary and capricious manner."
"There are no receipts, no vouchers," Baucus declared, "just largely undocumented expenditures." He told Berry that his subcommittee would be watching "actions that are taken or not taken" to see if promised improvements are made.
Last winter, the developing college program, known as Title 3 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, was the subject of a critical report by the General Accounting Office. At Will's request, the HEW inspector general's office began a separate investigation of the program focused on seven private agencies based in Washington which received more than $9 million last year in Title 3 funds to assist the colleges.
Ater the hearing, Will said the two young, unmarried members of his staff who uncovered much of the alleged mismanagement, had been quizzed by HEW investigators about whether they lived together.
Will said he "blew up" when he found out and protested about the personal questions.
Will said yesterday he has received no criticism, but little support from his HEW superiors in his efforts to "clean up" the college aid program. He also said he had been ordered by Berry not to talk to reporters about Title 3, but to refer all calls to the department's public affairs office.
Will told the subcommittee his grants and procurement management office is supposed to make sure all education grants follow federal laws and HEW regulations before final awards are made.
But he said about 400 grants "were dumped on us in the last month of the fiscal year (which ended Sept. 30".
"Frankly, there wasn't enough time to meet our responsibilities," Will said.
"The interest (of the agency) was in getting the programs funded," he said, "and not getting in trouble with Congress for turning back $120 million in funds."
During the hearing Baucus asked Will and two top officials of the college aid program about nine schools which received large grants in September even through independent evaluators had recommended aginst them or said the grants should be much smaller.
In most cases, Edward Brantley, the aid program director, said he could not recall why particular grants were made and said he was not responsible for them.
Baucus said that two days before the end of the past fiscal year, a $144,000 grant was earmarked for a Bethesda consulting firm, Enterprises for New Directions, Inc., to identify and publicize successful Title 3 programs at black colleges. He said the money was channeled through Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Fla.
The federal law setting up the Title 3 program does not allow grants to be made directly to consulting firms, Baucus noted.
Leonard H. O. Spearman, associate deputy commissioner of education, said the grant was made because "we thought it would strengthen Edward Waters and also had implications for other black colleges that need to be strengthened."