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STATEMENT FROM AGRICULTURE SECRETARY TOM VILSACK REGARDING ALLEGATIONS OF IMPROPRIETY AT AMES, IOWA, FEDERAL LABORATORIES
Feb. 4, 2009
Upon receiving information provided by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Office of Inspector General (OIG) began conducting an investigation into the alleged actions of employees at the Department's laboratories in Ames, Iowa, involving the use of veterinary credentials to purchase medications for human use so that other employees might be provided with low-cost prescription drugs.
This is a very serious situation that requires immediate and decisive action. Effective today, 19 employees who have been identified in the investigation as participating in the alleged improper conduct or having knowledge of such conduct are being placed on administrative leave until a complete review of the evidence provided by OIG is conducted. Due to privacy concerns, we cannot release the names of any employees involved and, since the investigation is ongoing, there are limits to the amount of information we can provide at this time. Additionally, it is possible that more employees will be identified.
Accountability is of the utmost importance in our laboratories, which are internationally renowned. In an effort to be fully transparent and reaffirm the trust of the American public our stakeholders and trading partners, we have commissioned two third-party reviews - one of the laboratory processes at the Ames facility and the other of the management processes. The laboratory review has been completed, and although we are still in the process of thoroughly evaluating the results, we are gratified to see that it affirmed the laboratory is generally functioning very well and successfully fulfilling its responsibilities. The management review, which we expect will provide insight regarding how USDA can prevent such situations from recurring, is ready to commence. Unless privacy or security concerns dictate otherwise, both reviews and any corrective actions taken as a result of them will be available to the public once they are complete. There is no evidence that any test results or other official laboratory activities were compromised in any way by this alleged activity.
As I said upon arriving at USDA, I have made it a priority to support President Obama's charge to establish and adhere to rigorous ethical standards that meet the expectations of U.S. citizens and taxpayers. I am committed to this charge and with the support and hard work of all USDA employees, I am confident that we will uphold the American people's trust.
Note to reporters: There are three USDA laboratories co-located at Ames, Iowa. The National Veterinary Services Laboratories and the Center for Veterinary Biologics are part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The National Animal Disease Center is a part of the Agricultural Research Service.