“It is disturbing that Columbia University, a prestigious institution, would improperly seek excessive cost reimbursements from NIH,” said Scott J. Lampert, a special agent in the Office of the Inspector General’s Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement. “Money gained by such behavior deprives other research programs of funds that could yield life-altering new treatments.”
Officials at Columbia say the school “believed in good faith” that it was appropriate to apply the rate for research performed in municipal buildings located on Columbia’s medical center campus.
“Columbia openly and consistently disclosed the rate applied to these buildings in its grant applications,” Caroline Adelman, a spokeswoman for the school, said in a statement. “The government disagreed with the university’s approach and took the position that a lower indirect cost rate was appropriate.”
The federal government has been cracking down on researchers misusing grant money.
In November, the University of Florida paid out nearly $20 million to settle allegations that it overcharged the government for the salaries of its employees without documenting their contributions and that it inflated the cost of services performed by a contractor.
West Virginia’s Wheeling Jesuit University agreed in August to pay $2.3 million to settle claims that it misappropriated research grant funding for over a decade. Around the same time, the National Science Foundation ordered Northeastern University in Boston to pay back $2.7 million for nearly a decade of mismanaging grant money from the agency.