The House Energy and Commerce Committee grilled President Donald Trump’s Administrator of the Environment Protection (EPA) for a strange office purchase. The EPA chief is also facing investigation over potential fraud, waste, or abuse of funds.
Lawmakers are questioning Administrator Scott Pruitt’s $25,000 “secure phone booth” installed in his office. The EPA called the phone booth “SCIF,” a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.”
— Energy Commerce Dems (@EnergyCommerce) December 12, 2017
According to the agency, Pruitt needs the SCIF to communicate with Trump and to make calls regarding classified information. However, when Congresswoman Diana DeGette asked the EPA chief how often he needs to use the phone booth, Pruitt said it’s hard to estimate.
On the other hand, EPA’s Inspector General will investigate whether Pruitt misused any appropriated fund when he purchased the secure phone booth for his office. The members of the House Energy and Committee requested the probe.
However, the EPA watchdog said he will not be able to start the investigation immediately citing the reason that his office doesn’t have enough resources. Inspector General Arthur Elkins said his office can’t keep up with all the investigations and other duties including a semiannual report to Congress.
In his letter to the House Committee, Elkin said, “The fact is that the OIG has been funded at less than the levels we deem adequate to do all the work that should be done, and therefore we have to make difficult decisions about whether to accept any given potential undertaking.”
In August, the EPA Inspector General has been investigating complaints regarding Pruitt’s travel. The agency’s watchdog wants to determine whether the EPA chief misused funds or violated any policies related to his official travel. The Inspector General is focused on at least one chartered flight and multiple government flights that cost more than $58,000.
The Inspector General is investigating if Pruitt followed policies when travelling back to his home in Oklahoma. Complainants noted that he frequently went there in the first few months of his appointment at the agency.