Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

EPA violated spending law on Pruitt's privacy soundproof booth: GAO

EPA violated spending law on Pruitt's privacy soundproof booth: GAO

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy on Friday sent a letter requesting more information from Pruitt, accused of excessive spending on travel, vehicles, staff raises and over-the-top security features such as a $43,000 soundproof phone booth.

"Section 710 prohibits an agency from obligating or expending an amount in excess of $5,000 to furnish, redecorate, purchase furniture for, or make improvements for the office of a presidential appointee during the period of appointment without prior notification to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate", reads the report.

In a joint statement, congresswoman Betty McCollum and Senator Tom Udall, both Democrats, said, "Today's GAO report is the latest proof of the rampant corruption and misconduct" at the EPA under Pruitt.

The Government Accountability Office said the EPA violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act with Pruitt's privacy booth.

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".

The booth, which Pruitt had told lawmakers in a hearing was needed to conduct agency business, was built in a former storage closet in the administrator's office.

Pruitt has defended his use of first-class travel by saying it was for security purposes.

The Associated Press first reported in December that EPA also spent about $9,000 for an outside contractor to sweep Pruitt's office for secret listening devices and installed biometric locks. The EPA could, however, face administrative penalties under the Antideficiency Act. "He has been a disaster, and it's past time for him to go".

They also inquired about a lease for a bedroom in a Capitol Hill condominium that Pruitt rented in 2017.

Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and typically a staunch defender of Pruitt, agreed that EPA needs to follow the law.

Pruitt and those around him are under multiple investigations launched by government watchdogs and congressional committees.

Pruitt had originally recommended the raises but was denied by the White House.

"If you want to avoid people on the plane, sit in the last seat, not the first seat", the South Carolina Republican said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday".

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