Ex-Trump EPA head Scott Pruitt spent $124,000 in ‘excessive airfare,’ inspector general finds

Source: By William Cummings, USA Today • Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general released the results of an audit Thursday that found former Administrator Scott Pruitt and his staff spent $124,000 on “excessive airfare expenses.”

The report looked at 40 EPA trips taken during Pruitt’s tenure that totaled about $985,000. The audit found “among other lapses” that money was spent “without sufficient justification on first- and business-class travel for former Administrator Pruitt and his staff,” Charles Sheehan, the EPA’s deputy inspector general, said in a statement.

Pruitt, who joined President Donald Trump’s administration after battling federal environmental regulations as Oklahoma’s attorney general, resigned in July 2018 amid a flurry of ethics scandalsand investigations.

In addition to concerns about his travel expenses, there were questions about huge pay raises given to his aides, the Capitol Hill apartment he rented from an energy lobbyist’s wife for $50 a night, his 24-hour security detail and allegations that he had aides perform personal errands.

Trump said Pruitt’s travel expenses were “OK” and defended his security detail in the months leading to his resignation.

Scott Pruitt: A list of the ex-EPA Administrator’s ethical challenges, accusations

While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018

In June, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said that “if the president wants to drain the swamp, he needs to take a look at his own Cabinet,” calling Pruitt “about as swampy as you get,” according to Bloomberg.

Here is a rundown of the problems Thursday’s OIG report found during Pruitt’s EPA tenure:

  • The EPA “did not always justify the use of non-contract air carriers.”
  • “Compliance with federal regulations in the selection of first/business class carrier and flights was not documented.”
  • Hotel costs were approved “above per diem without adequate justification.”
  • The EPA did not show that “no additional costs resulted” from Pruitt’s stops to his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
  • Business-class travel was “improperly approved” for Pruitt’s security detail and staff on international flights.

On the other hand, the inspector general did not find fault with Pruitt’s use of military and chartered flights.

Snow said “EPA’s management of its travel program has been a persistent area of concern for the Office of Inspector General.” The report cited three other audits from May 2011, December 2013 and September 2015 that found “weaknesses in the EPA’s internal controls regarding travel.”

The report recommended that the EPA determine if the money Pruitt spent on “excessive airfare costs,” or any other money he wasted, “should be recovered.”