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Harvard University Agrees To Pay $1.3 Million To Settle Government Grant Allegations

Dunster House at Harvard University. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Dunster House at Harvard University. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Harvard University has agreed to pay over $1.3 million to resolve allegations that the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was overcharging the government for certain grants.

The schools reportedly overcharged for grants funded by both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), the U.S. Attorney Andrew Lellings's office said in a release on Monday. 

"Colleges and universities receiving federal grants are required to accurately track their time and effort and only charge grants for time and effort that employees spent working on those grants," Lelling's office said in the statement. "Overstating time and effort spent on grants can result in awarding agencies (in this case NIH and HRSA) paying more than is justified."

According to Lelling's office, Professor Donna Spiegelman and her team at the Chan School overstated how long they spent working on specific grants. Instead, Spiegelman and her team allegedly reported they had split their time evenly across all grants, which overcharged the government about $1,359,791.

Harvard, however, disclosed the potential overcharges to both the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's Office and the National Institutes of Health back in 2016. The university also "worked cooperatively to explain the overcharges" and "put in place additional internal controls and safeguards aimed at preventing overcharges from occurring in the future," said the U.S. Attorney's office in the statement.

“As this resolution shows, this Office will continue to examine whether colleges and universities, and their professors, are appropriately using government funding,” Lelling said in the statement. “Grant fraud wastes scarce government resources and limits the availability of funding for other research. We commend Harvard for itself disclosing the alleged overcharges at the School of Public Health and for taking steps to prevent future recurrences.”

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Derek J. Anderson Twitter Digital Producer
Derek J. Anderson is a digital producer for WBUR.

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