Equipment At CDC Is MIA

More than 5,000 pieces of equipment worth $22 million purchased by the Centers for Disease Control with tax dollars are unaccounted for.
CBS
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be expert at tracking disease. But the agency leaves something to be desired when it comes to tracking big-ticket items paid for with your tax dollars.

CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson exclusively obtained a 90-page list of thousands of pieces of scientific equipment and property — all bought by taxpayers, and all of it missing in action.

The list includes 35 centrifuges, each costing up to $41,800; five DNA sequencers and gene analyzers costing up to $111,000 apiece; and a $200,000 spectrometer used for analyzing samples. Nobody knows where they are.

Also unaccounted for are high-end microscopes, copiers, dozens of Land Cruisers and 4x4's, a John Deere tractor and backhoe, and 5,000 computers.

"Where did they go? How do we find them? Who's in charge over there?" asks Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

Walden is investigating the property mess. He says some items have turned up for sale on eBay, yet the CDC can't even say if anyone has ever been arrested.

"How do I know what they have or don't have? They don't know what they have or don't have," Walden says. "They can't locate it, they've not prosecuted anybody and nobody in the agency's been held responsible for their shabby bookkeeping."

Twelve years ago, the Inspector General warned the CDC to fix its property troubles. Back then, $1 million worth was missing. Now it's $22 million — 5,547 items.

At least some of the CDC property was stolen, and it may have been an inside job. Someone knew how to defeat security at a CDC warehouse and made off with $500,000 worth of new computers.

It kind of makes you wonder what the folks in charge of property have been doing. There are more than 900 of them employed at CDC.

The CDC wouldn't agree to an interview, but told CBS News they take the problems "very seriously" and that sheer size is an issue: they have "15,000 staff ... in more than 40 countries." CDC also claims that since CBS News started working on this story, it has "accounted for" more than $10 million in missing equipment, but would not provide any detail.

"There's a piece of equipment missing for every three employees on average, and that's just outrageous!" Walden said.

That doesn't even factor in the potential security issues with the missing computers, since the CDC is the lead agency on bioterror threats. It's one more reason why, a dozen years after first flagging the problem, the Inspector General has opened a new investigation.