Republicans accuse health department of 'financial mismanagement'

Republican lawmakers are accusing the Obama administration of "financial mismanagement" in the wake of an Ernst & Young audit that found "weaknesses" in the Health Department's accounting.

A letter sent Monday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gives HHS until March 15 to explain:

• why its accounts differ from the Treasury Department's by more than $500 million; 

• what happened to $1.8 billion in contracts for "travel, grants, and contracts awaiting close-out" that were open for more than two years with no activity;

• its plans for updating procedures that haven't changed since the 1980s;

• its efforts to pay $2.6 billion owed to sponsors of retiree prescription drug coverage; and 

• how it plans to collect $3.8 billion owed to the agency, an increase in accounts receivable of $2.2 billion over last year.

The letter was signed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees.