EPA watchdog, senators recommend agency recoup $124K for Pruitt's "excessive" travel costs
Scott Pruitt. Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images
Senators are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to collect nearly $124,000 for inappropriate travel expenses by former agency chief Scott Pruitt, after a watchdog reports was released, reports the Hill.
The state of play: In a Thursday letter EPA on Thursday, 4 senators requested changes to the existing policy so “similar abuses of agency funds are not permitted to reoccur," per the Hill.
The big picture: Pruitt isn't the first member of the Trump administration to end up in hot water for top-dollar travel.
- The former head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, resigned after spending nearly a $1 million on travel expenses.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also requested government travel for him and his wife for their honeymoon.
- Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was also investigated for his travel spending.
Details: The Office of Inspector General's estimated findings come nearly a year after Pruitt resigned amid controversy over his spending, travel and relationships with lobbyists. Investigators concluded that 40 trips Pruitt either took or scheduled between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, cost taxpayers $985,037, allotted for Pruitt's security detail and staffers' travel.
“Actions are needed to strengthen controls over the EPA’s travel and prevent fraud, waste and abuse,”— the IG's office
The inspector general’s office is questioning $123,941 spent to fly Pruitt and his security detail in first- or business class, while his staff was required to fly coach. When traveling to Tulsa, Okla. — where Pruitt maintained a home while serving as a member of President Trump’s cabinet — his staff was occasionally required to cover their own travel expenses.
What they're saying: The EPA responded, clarifying a long-standing policy of allowing travel other than coach class. The agency's general counsel issued an opinion determining that the acting controller “had the authority to grant first-class exceptions. Therefore, in evaluating the delegation EPA believes that the trips were authorized by an appropriate official, making cost recovery inappropriate."