2021 Report raises concerns about potential relationship to baby formula shortage and failure to promptly investigate whistleblower claims
June 15, 2022
(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative announced it has received an internal 2021 report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that studied employees’ access and use of the agency’s virtual system while working remotely during the first nine months of the pandemic. The report, commissioned by former HHS Chief of Staff Brian Harrison, found that on any given day from March-December 2020, between 20-30 percent of HHS employees did not appear to be working. The report looked at all HHS employees’ login activity on the Virtual Private Network (VPN) or Microsoft 360 Accounts, which are used by employees to access the agency’s email and file systems remotely.
The report is likely to raise concerns whether this trend continued throughout 2021 and possibly into 2022, as the Biden Administration has made a concerted effort to continue very flexible telework policies well after the vaccines were made available. If so, it could have dramatic implications for the current investigation into the baby formula crisis sweeping the country.
As recently revealed by senior HHS officials in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce and the Senate HELP Committees, the FDA Commissioner acknowledged his agency was “too slow” to act in recognizing and responding to the baby formula shortage. The delayed response occurred despite extensive resources available to government officials, including data analytics tools, pandemic preparedness plans, and a whistleblower complaint filed with the FDA as early as last October. Still, FDA action on a whistleblower complaint faced a months-long delay due to apparent pandemic-related mail room issues.
As parents and lawmakers around the country demand answers, whether a significant number of employees of the agency responsible for preventing this crisis were showing up to work is deserving of further inquiry. The report is sure to add fuel to the concerns of many looking for answers into this tragic and escalating crisis.
Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:
“The report’s findings are clearly concerning for an agency so important to responding to a global pandemic and so central to the government’s myriad public health responsibilities as HHS. Sadly, those concerns pale in comparison to the potential revelation that such substantial absenteeism played a role in the baby formula crisis that has been distressing parents of young children across the country for months now. As FGI continues to investigate dysfunctional government, this example likely offers one of the bleakest examples to date.”