Trump's initial appointee to run the EPA was Scott Pruitt, who resigned in disgrace in 2018 amid a massive corruption scandal in which he was found to have spent lavishly and assigned improper personal duties to government employees.
The EPA's Office of the Inspector General has published the results of a long investigation into Pruitt's spending, finding that he bilked the taxpayer out of more than $120,000 by breaking government rules on flying business class, staying in fancy hotels, and flying expensive itineraries that included personal stops in Pruitt's hometown of Tulsa.
Pruitt was succeeded by coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler in early 2019.
The OIG identified 40 trips and $985,037 in costs associated with the former Administrator’s travel for the 10-month period from March 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017. This covered 34 completed and six canceled trips and included costs incurred not only by the former Administrator but by his Protective Service Detail (PSD) and other staff. Of the 40 trips,16 included travel to, or had stops in, Tulsa, Oklahoma—the location of the former Administrator’s personal residence.
We estimated excessive costs of $123,942 regarding the former Administrator’s and accompanying PSD agents’ use of first/business-class travel because the exception that allowed for the travel accommodation was granted without sufficient justification and, initially, without appropriate approval authority.
Although the EPA’s travel policy is sufficiently designed to prevent fraud, waste and abuse and is consistent with the Federal Travel Regulation, we found that the policy did not initially outline who had the authority to approve the Administrator’s travel authorizations and vouchers.
We also found that not all applicable provisions of the Federal Travel Regulation and/or EPA travel policy were followed. We identified:
• Improper granting of first/business-class exceptions.
• Unjustified use of non-contract air carriers.
• Improper approval of lodging costs above per diem.
• Missing detailed support for trips with stops in Tulsa.
• Improper approval of international business-class travel.
• Inaccurate and incomplete international trip reports.
Actions Needed to Strengthen Controls over the EPAAdministrator’sand Associated Staff’s Travel [Office of Inspector General/Environmental Protection Agency]
(Thanks, Gary Price!)