FDA Head Called to Account Errors Were Unintentional, He Says; Pays $850 Back Travel Vouchers Submitted by the Head of the Food and Drug Administration Contain Overcharges

Article excerpt

A hotel room here. Dozens of excessive cab fares there. A government-discount plane ticket for the wife. For five years, Food and Drug Administration chief David A. Kessler submitted expense accounts riddled with nickel-and-dime charges in his favor, a review of records shows.

Confronted with travel vouchers that were signed as truthful under penalty of federal law, Kessler insisted Friday that the errors were unintentional, and he has written an $850 check to cover anything he owes the government.

"Even while things are being corrected and so there can't be any questions, I've reimbursed the government based on preliminary figures," said Kessler, whose annual salary is $115,000. The Associated Press reviewed some $17,377 in federal reimbursements that Kessler claimed on travel vouchers from mid-1990 through the spring of 1995. More than a third was for cab fares for which he had no receipts. Many of the fares were far in excess of actual costs - in some cases two or three times. The review also found: Kessler sought and received federal reimbursement for two hotel rooms that actually had been paid in total or part by outside groups. Kessler said he preferred never to allow groups to pay his expenses but was unaware of these payments. …

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