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The Education Department's inspector general last week announced that his office questioned, or recommended for recovery, $45.7 million in federal expenditures during the six-month period ending March 31.

Actions by the inspector's office--an independent watchdog agency that investigates charges of waste, fraud, and abuse within the department--resulted in 91 criminal indictments and 61 convictions, said the inspector general, James B. Thomas Jr., in his report to the Congress.

The office's 10th semi-annual report disclosed that the department had asked grantees and contractors to return over $24.6 million in unsupported or inappropriate costs. The inspector general's report does not include the results of internal department investigations but audits and investigations into grants and contracts. Many of the reported abuses focused on student financial-aid programs.

In the largest reported abuse in elementary and secondary education, the inspector recommended that a state return $18.4 million in vocational-education funds. The state--unnamed, as are all the principals in the report--improperly charged unused money to previous years' accounts to avoid having to return it to the government.

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