Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston agreed this month to pay more than $2.4 million to settle allegations that the school and hospital improperly used research grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Prosecutors charged that Harvard improperly billed $1.9 million to pay for salaries of scientists who didn't work on grant-related projects, and for supplies and equipment also not tied to the NIH-funded research.
"This settlement should send a message that institutions who accept federal grant money, no matter who they are, must strictly adhere to the terms," U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said in a news release.
In 2002, Harvard agreed to pay $850,000 in connection with the same allegations. That brings the total payments by Harvard and 526-bed Beth Israel to more than $3.25 million, according to Sullivan.
In the early 1990s, the NIH's National Institute of Aging awarded Harvard roughly $5.5 million in grants to study aging. From 1994 to 1999 Beth Israel, which was working on the grants though an informal agreement with Harvard, submitted invoices for nonallowable expenses including the salary of a scientist who did not meet the grant's citizenship requirements and research animals not used for the grant project.
Harvard will pay $1.3 million of the settlement and Beth Israel will pay $1.1 million, a Harvard spokesman said. Both Harvard and Beth Israel denied any intentional wrong-doing in the settlement.
"(Beth Israel) brought the matter forward for investigation when the problems were first discovered," Larry Ray, vice president of research operations at the facility, said in a written statement. The hospital, he added, "was happy to cooperate with the resulting federal investigation. ... The principal of the four grants involved is no longer at (Beth Israel), and the issues that gave rise to this situation have long since been corrected."
Harvard has said it is instituting a more rigorous training program for grant administrators and clarifying the roles and responsibilities of those who ensure grant rules are followed.