National Lab Had $160M In Questionable Costs

According to a recent audit by the agency’s inspector general, a Department of Energy lab in Illinois racked up over $160 million in questionable charges owing to excessive reimbursements, misplaced invoices, and holiday compensation.

The contractor responsible for running the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, Fermi Research Alliance LLC, was audited for their 2018 expenditures.

The lab is owned by the Department of Energy and is supported by the federal government to the tune of millions of dollars annually. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provided an additional $260 million for the research facility.

According to the report from the inspector general, not all of the contractor’s expenses were valid. Indirect expenses were questioned to the tune of $160 million by the inspector general, while subcontract costs were questioned to the tune of $15 million, and $2.5 million was questioned as unsubstantiated, unallowable, or excessive.

The inspector general found a lot of things that worried him. The loss of approximately 2.4 million dollars in vendor invoices by Fermi Research Alliance, exorbitant holiday compensation of over $50,000, and the unjustified subsistence payments to guest scientists and researchers of over $30,000. He also discovered that Fermi Research Alliance’s accounting practices did not align with federal regulations.

A report shows these deficiencies might result in the department covering Fermi Research Alliance for expenses that were unjustified, the inspector general for the Energy Department wrote.

The audit determined that the Energy Department’s purpose is being undermined by poor management since the funds used for dubious expenditures might have been used to expand the lab’s research capabilities by acquiring new equipment or recruiting additional scientists.

The audit concluded that the waste might have been avoided if stricter enforcement of accounting standards and more regular audits had been conducted to verify that they were being fulfilled.