NPR 'Science Friday' Host Settles Dispute With Government Over Grant Use
September 17, 2014 at 4:01 AM (PT)
IRA FLATOW, host of NPR's "SCIENCE FRIDAY," and his SCIENCEFRIDAY INC. have settled a suit brought by the government over alleged misuse of a NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION grant, reports CURRENT.ORG.
The settlement has FLATOW and his for-profit company, which produced the show in the 2009-2011 period subject to the suit, paying $145,542 to settle the dispute; the company, which no longer produces the show and contracts with the nonprofit SCIENCE FRIDAY INITIATIVE for FLATOW's employment and the show's name and logo, is also barred from participation in federal programs, grants, and contracts through SEPTEMBER 15, 2015.
The grant in question was intended to draw younger listeners ti the show through social media, and the suit alleged that the defendant company submitted false reports and cash advance requests, used grant money for "unallowable and unsupported costs," and could not track work and expenses on the grant.
A statement from the show said, “Federal grants are complex and require a significant amount of compliance work to show that money is being spent in the proper way. In the years since the grant was awarded, SCIENCE FRIDAY INITIATIVE has strengthened its administrative operation, bringing in new management, including a new Executive Director and creating the position of Chief Financial Officer. We have also tightened our policies around bookkeeping and budgeting. We are committed to being good stewards of all of our funders’ investments with us, and our new management structure ensures that we maintain rigorous compliance going forward.”
But FLATOW, speaking to CURRENT, said that he disagreed with the investigation's conclusions, noting that the NSF had approved the spending plan three times and that he was actually "on time and actually under budget,” operating the way the show had used NSF grants for four years before the contested period. “Why am I suddenly being penalized for sticking with the same standards?,” he asked, adding that prominent noncommercial broadcasters like PBS affiliates WGBH-TV/BOSTON and WNET-TV/NEW YORK had also paid settlements in similar cases. “The only conclusion I can come to is that NSF is under pressure from Congress to cut back on science spending and education,” FLATOW said. “Education and outreach are easy targets for them.”