April 18 (UPI) — The Office of Management and Budget plans to investigate spending by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, White House budget Director Mick Mulvaney told Congress on Wednesday.
The OMB director said he received a Government Accountability Office report earlier this week which found that Pruitt’s office violated the law when it spent $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth without notifying Congress.
Under the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, the EPA is required to notify the Senate and House appropriations committees in advance of any furnishing spending above $5,000.
“We take the anti-deficiency statute very, very seriously and if they’ve been broken we’ll follow the rules we will enforce the law and we’ll do so in a transparent fashion,” Mulvaney told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.
There are two other soundproof phone booths at EPA headquarters, though neither are located in Pruitt’s private offices.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee previously launched an investigation into allegations of ethical and spending abuses by Pruitt. On Friday, Chairman Trey Gowdy sent a letter requesting more information from Pruitt, who is accused of excessive spending on travel, vehicles, staff raises and security features, including the phone booth.
Gowdy’s letter was sent one day after lawmakers heard details from the EPA’s former deputy chief of staff for operations, Kevin Chmielewski, who said those who questioned Pruitt’s unethical behavior were retaliated against.
Chmielewski said Pruitt insisted on staying at expensive hotels while traveling even if they exceeded allowable federal spending limits and told staff to book him on Delta Air Lines so he could accrue frequent flier miles.
Last month, Pruitt was scrutinized after travel documents released showed the EPA spent close to $90,000 to send him and his staff to Italy for one day for the G7 environmental summit. Included in that amount was a $36,000 military flight so Pruitt could join President Donald Trump at a Cincinnati event, then make it to New York in time for his flight to Rome.
Mulvaney said Wednesday that the OMB hasn’t acted on similar allegations of excessive spending by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson because he canceled an order for a $31,000 dining set.
“We’re going to be completely above board on this one, I’m not any happier about it than you are,” Mulvaney told representatives of the Pruitt case.