Audit: DHS pandemic supplies expired

A new audit has found major gaps in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) preparations for viral pandemics like Ebola: many of the supplies purchased by the government are expired.

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Officials have spent millions to stockpile medical supplies since 2006 without knowing exactly what to buy or how they would be used, DHS Inspector General John Roth said Friday. The agency also failed to track the supplies it did purchase.

“We could not determine the basis for DHS’s decisions,” Roth told a panel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as he presented the 43-page report.

DHS, which is one of the agencies leading the response to Ebola, has “no assurance” that it has enough protective gear or antiviral medications or that its supplies remain effective, Roth said.

The department purchased 4,184 bottles of hand sanitizers that have expired, Roth found.

DHS spent $6.7 million for antiviral drugs, with no plan to decide what types of drugs it should purchase. It also has no way to know that the drugs were maintained at the proper temperature, which could have destroyed the drugs’ effectiveness.

The department has lost track of 2,055 doses of antiviral medication, the report said.

In light of the report, Roth told the panel, the department is beginning to reshape its strategy.

“Certainly now, the department is starting to do the kinds of planning that we recommended,” Roth said during the hearing.

The IG's testimony raises questions about the government’s ability to handle the ongoing epidemic of Ebola in West Africa that has infected nearly 10,000 people. Four cases have been diagnosed in the United States, including one diagnosed late Thursday night in New York City.

"How can I tell the American people that we're prepared?" Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said of the IG's findings. "Almost all the equipment you cited in this report, in fact, is either out of date or the purchase made no sense."