Thursday, 19 July, 2018

GAO cites violation in Pruitt booth purchase

Mayors EPA move to roll back vehicle emissions standards threatens Utahns’ health air quality improvements Traffic on State Street in Salt Lake City Wednesday
Pete Mitchell | 17 April, 2018, 20:25

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, broke spending laws when he installed a $43,000 soundproof privacy phone booth in his office, the Government Accountability Office ruled Monday.

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 previous year. Pruitt's office did not notify Congress about the excessive spending, the GAO contends, in violation of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.

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Pruitt gave no such heads-up before spending more than $43,000 on the "soundproof privacy booth".

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. EPA also told the GAO the booth "not only enables the administrator to make and receive phone calls to discuss sensitive information, but it also enables him to use this area to make and receive classified telephone calls (up to the top secret level) for the objective of conducting agency business".

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Kevin Chmielewski, formerly Pruitt's deputy chief of staff for operations, told congressional investigators last week that although Jackson signed off on the raises, Pruitt knew about the entire process.

"The GAO letter "recognized the ... need for employees to have access to a secure telephone line" when handling sensitive information", EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in an email.

Democrats on Capitol Hill had requested the legal opinion from GAO on Pruitt's phone.

The chief of workers to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt authorized salary increases to at least three employees - one of that was worth 72 percentage, " the agency's watchdog revealed. They blasted the EPA chief after the decision was released today. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees EPA. President Donald Trump has repeatedly backed Pruitt through the revelations - about expensive travel, a below-market-rate lease from an energy lobbyist, and raises given to aides against White House direction - calling him a "good man" who "is doing a great job!" "He must fire him immediately", said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. "That is, a classified phone can not simply be put on an office desk or in a conference room", the EPA told GAO in a March 23 letter that the agency released on Monday.

Thomas Armstrong, the office's general counsel, determined that the EPA's purchase of the booth violated federal law prohibiting agencies from spending more than $5,000 for redecorating, furnishings or other improvements to the offices of presidential appointees without informing Congress. Congress passed the legal provision to enable the EPA to better attract scientists and experts, but it did not put those restrictions on the agency.

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