Gao: EPa vi­o­lated law over Pruitt spend­ing

The Republican Herald - - NATION / WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — An in­ter­nal gov­ern­ment watch­dog says the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency vi­o­lated fed­eral spend­ing laws when pur­chas­ing a $43,000 sound­proof pri­vacy booth for Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt to make pri­vate phone calls in his of­fice.

The Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice is­sued its find­ings Mon­day in a let­ter to Sen­ate Democrats who had re­quested a re­view of Pruitt’s spend­ing.

GAO Gen­eral Coun­sel Thomas Arm­strong de­ter­mined that EPA’s pur­chase of the booth vi­o­lated fed­eral law pro­hibit­ing agen­cies from spend­ing more than $5,000 for re­dec­o­rat­ing, fur­nish­ings or other im­prove­ments to the of­fices of pres­i­den­tial ap­pointees with­out in­form­ing Congress. Be­cause EPA used fed­eral money in a man­ner specif­i­cally pro­hib­ited by law, Arm­strong said the agency also vi­o­lated the An­tid­e­fi­ciency Act, and is legally ob­li­gated to re­port that vi­o­la­tion to Congress.

EPA spokes­woman Liz Bow­man said the agency is “ad­dress­ing GAO’s con­cern, with re­gard to con­gres­sional no­ti­fi­ca­tion about this ex­pense, and will be send­ing Congress the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion this week.”

EPA has said pre­vi­ously that Pruitt needed the pri­vacy booth to make se­cure phone calls with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and other se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials with­out fear of eaves­drop­ping. It is among sev­eral un­usual se­cu­rity pre­cau­tions taken by Pruitt that are now under scru­tiny, like his use fre­quent use of first-class flights to avoid un­pleas­ant in­ter­ac­tions with other trav­el­ers.

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