All federal agencies have an obligation to audit the tax dollars they spend to make sure they were used properly. But the Los Alamos lab has failed to regularly do so over the last decade, leaving a trail of $470 million in resolved costs.
The Energy Department's internal watchdog has identified more than $470 million in unresolved and unaudited spending at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, with much of the total dating to 2003.
Deputy Inspector General Rickey R. Hass did not allege misuse of funds in the report Monday. Still, he said resolution of the reviews "ensures that costs charged to the government are allowable, makes certain that taxpayer's money is spent wisely, and has the potential to free significant funds that would be better spent on Los Alamos' mission critical program activities."
The department's National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the laboratory, did not challenge the findings and pledged to resolve the outstanding cost questions by next year.
A department spokesman offered no additional comment.
Hass reported the totals were gathered in a separate assessment of audit coverage that the Office of Inspector General issued on Nov. 19. That assessment was conducted to find out if the department's previous questioned costs and internal audit weaknesses had been corrected.
Of the totals, about $437 million in unresolved costs were from years prior to 2010, including $2 million in questioned amounts. That year the laboratory's subcontracting auditing function was shifted from its acquisition management office to its internal audit office.
The OIG last April called for a revamping of audit functions at Los Alamos, a recommendation that the department accepted and is currently reviewing in response to a proposal by the lab.
Of the rest, some $10.7 million was deemed unresolved because the department failed to win in court its attempt to recoup from its contractor $10.3 million in cost overruns and $425,000 in legal fees and other costs to correct defective work.
Inspectors general are the chief watchdogs inside federal agencies charged with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in federal spending.