by JILLIAN SMITH | The National Desk
WASHINGTON (TND) — After more than two years now of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, questions remain about government agencies that specialize in science.
Some are wondering where tens of billions of dollars in federal grants went and who decided where it should go.
A new investigation focuses specifically on the National Institutes of Health looking at royalty payments made to federal employees and grants received by outside but connected companies.
“The idea that people have a financial benefit from certain research that’s been done and grants that were awarded that to me is the height of an appearance of a conflict of interest,” Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Mich.
While the NIH director admitted there could be an appearance of a conflict of interest, he insisted there are firewalls in place to separate functions.
“No individual who is in decision-making role on a particular product would have benefited from being the inventor of that product,” said Lawrence Tabak, acting director of the NIH.
The government watchdog group Open the Books recently sued the NIH when a freedom of information request was ignored, finally receiving what CEO Adam Andrzejewski says was heavily redacted information.
“Why is the NIH hiding the payments, the names — think pharmaceutical companies and payments to the individual scientists and the inventions — the patent number and the license numbers?” said Andrzejewski.
Five Republican senators have laid out concerns over billions of dollars in federal grants in a letter to the NIH requesting more information about which government doctors and researchers have a financial interest in drugs and products they support and whether a relationship exists between federal grants awarded by NIH and royalty payments received.
“One of the best ways to deal with potential conflicts of interest is just disclosure and that’s what we’re trying to get here. Who’s been getting the payments, who is being paid how much, who is it going to and for what,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.
Constantly changing information over the last couple years during the pandemic has reinvigorated calls from lawmakers to shine a spotlight on what some see as a revolving door between government agencies doling out the money and private agencies receiving it.