Federal researchers have blown $8.8 million - and misplaced another $4 million - set aside by Congress to study chronic fatigue syndrome.
Critics say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention never took the disease seriously. In fact, they say the CDC merely paid lip service to the malady in testimony before Congress.
An inspector general's report found that more than half the $22.7 million appropriated by Congress in 1996 to study the disease was misspent. And a congressional subcommittee responsible for appropriating the funds wonders if Congress was misled on the money's use.
"CDC officials provided inaccurate and potentially misleading information to Congress concerning the scope and cost of chronic fatigue syndrome research activities," the audit report said in May.
In a complaint, Dr. William Reeves, a branch chief in the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases, accused Dr. Claire Broome, then-acting CDC director, of providing false information to Congress when she testified that part of the 1996 research money was spent on a new laboratory in Dr. Reeves' department. No such laboratory was built.
Dr. Reeves also said the division director, Dr. Brian Mahy, transferred funds from the CFS program to research areas he deemed more important.
Congress does not allocate funds based on the disease, according to sources on the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on labor, health and human services and education, but agencies are generally expected to follow congressional guidelines. In previous testimony, though, the subcommittee was told that the CFS research was continuing as planned.
Rep. John Edward Porter, Illinois Republican and chairman of the subcommittee, was "quite upset" about the allocation of funds.
"I have no problem if they had come back to us and said look, they don't think there is any good research we can follow here, this is not a good use of the money," Mr. Porter said. Mr. Porter, who has been on the subcommittee since the 1980s and was one of the first members of Congress to call for CFS research, expressed concern about the purported misappropriation of funds. He questioned if the CDC misrepresented its research plans to Congress.
"The CDC is a publicly funded institution of the government and it has to respond to some degree to the concerns of the …