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GAO: EPA violated spending laws building soundproof booth in Pruitt's office

17 April, 2018, 18:54 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • EPA Broke The Law When It Spent $43000 On A New Phone Booth For Scott Pruitt, Government Watchdog Says

In its explanation to the GAO included in the report, the EPA equated the booth to other necessary office supplies and argued it was needed to "support specific mission requirements" and allow Pruitt to carry out agency business "without concern that classified, deliberative, privileged, or sensitive information might inadvertently be disclosed to those who are not meant to receive such information".

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. However, GAO disagreed with that interpretation of the law, and determined that the EPA was required to report construction of the booth to lawmakers.

The agency reports it spent over $24,000 for the booth itself and over $18,000 in "space reconfiguration costs", and explained it did not give prior notice to members of Congress because the booth "does not constitute an aesthetic improvement".

The GAO-which is the federal government's independent watchdog-also found that the EPA allocated the funds in a way that violated a second federal law, the Antideficiency Act. The lawmakers had requested the GAO review.

He spent almost $6,000 buying specialized locks requiring fingerprints to open a door, the Associated Press reported past year.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Pruitt has four different addresses, three of which do not follow EPA's conventional format.

"Can you affirm that the EPA does in fact search all your official email accounts when responding to FOIA requests?"

Though Congressional notification was the only subject of the brief, GAO also remarked that EPA already has two Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs)-installations through which classified information can be shared.

In a so-called "government watchful", EPA inspector-general Arthur Elkins Jr. explained his team had examined employees records for 6 workers who were hired or had received increases beneath a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act as Pruitt arrived to the bureau past year.

In an unusual management alert issued Monday, EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins said his staff had reviewed personnel documents for six employees who were hired or had received raises under the Safe Drinking Water Act since Pruitt came to the agency a year ago.

In an April 4 interview with Fox News, Pruitt claimed he was not sure perhaps the person who authorized the raise was a livelihood EPA worker or some political appointee.

According to the OIG's "management alert", which made no conclusions about the hiring, EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson used an obscure provision in the statute to authorize significant salary raises for certain EPA employees after the White House had refused to approve the increases.

"An illegal privacy booth to conduct secret discussions with his polluter friends does nothing to help our health or environment", Udall said. "Scott Pruitt is behaving like swamp emperor rather than EPA administrator - he has shown a shocking lack of regard for public health and safety, ethics and fairness".

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