Eighty-four percent of the hand sanitizer the Homeland Security Department has in stock in the event of an Ebola outbreak is expired, according to a government audit.
An August 2014 report from the department's inspector general found that DHS did not adequately assess its need for pandemic preparedness supplies. The report also found that the purchase and management of these materials do not follow clear guidelines.
"The department did not develop and implement stockpile replenishment plans, establish sufficient inventory controls to monitor stockpiles, conduct adequate contract oversight, or ensure compliance with departmental guidelines," wrote DHS Inspector General John Roth, in written testimony for a House Oversight hearing Friday.
"As a result, the department may not be able to provide pandemic preparedness supplies that are adequate to continue operations during a pandemic."
The report raises concerns about the ability of DHS to protect personnel in the event of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.
Congress appropriated $47 million in supplemental funding for DHS in 2006 to prepare for a possible pandemic, according to the report. Yet the report alleges that the logic behind the equipment purchases is unclear: $9.5 million was spent on pandemic protective equipment and $6.7 million on antiviral drugs since 2006, without clear methodologies for how the decisions on type and number of supplies were made.
This includes a reported inventory of 350,000 white coveralls and 16 million surgical masks, without demonstrated need.
No one from DHS testified at the hearing Friday. According to Roberts, the department agreed with all 11 of the recommendations made in the report and has fully implemented one thus far.
"Certainly now the department is starting to do the kinds of planning we recommended," he said.
The risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. remains extremely low. There have been four cases of Ebola diagnosed in the States thus far, including one aid worker in New York City, who was diagnosed with the virus Thursday evening. One person has died from the disease in the U.S.
There have been at least 9,936 reported cases of Ebola in West Africa as of Oct. 19, according to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization. The official death toll is near 5,000, although officials believe the actual total may be three times higher.