WASHINGTON--The National Institutes of Health has removed the head of the office that buys supplies and equipment for its intramural research program following a stinging government report that found widespread mismanagement of the federal fund being spent on supplies and equipment.

A five-year battle between NIH and its parent, the Department of Health and Human Services, culminated last month in the replacement of Edwin ("Ted") Becker as director of NIH’s Office of Research Services (ORS). Last year the office was responsible for the purchase of some $174 million worth of items for both the main campus in Bethesda, Md., and affiliated laboratories around the country.

The last straw was an April 15 letter from Richard Kusserow, the department’s inspector general, to HHS Secretary Otis Bowen. In it, Kusserow charged that "there is a major failure in internal controls at ORS . . . which is resulting in $26 million in...

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