Currently under investigation for reportedly spending $300,000 of taxpayer money on at least 24 flights aboard private charter planes, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price announced on Saturday that he would no longer be traveling in chartered aircraft during the federal review. Along with Price, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is also under investigation for abusing travel expenses.
“OIG (Office of Inspector General) is conducting a review of Secretary Price’s federal travel using chartered aircraft,” HHS OIG spokeswoman Teisa Williams told CBS. “The review focuses on whether the travel complied with federal travel regulations, but may encompass other issues related to the travel. We take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue. I can confirm that work is underway and will be completed as soon as possible.”
“I don’t think there will be any charter trips until this review is complete,” Price told Fox News on Saturday. “I think that’s appropriate because of the concerns that we’ve heard.”
According to Politico, Price has traveled at least 24 times on private chartered planes since taking office despite the fact that his predecessors routinely used commercial flights to reduce taxpayer costs. Price’s travel expenses this year have reached over $300,000 even though the HHS Secretary could easily have driven a car instead on many occasions.
“We’ve heard this criticism and we’re very, very serious about addressing it,” Price told Fox. “That’s why, as the inspector general goes through his review and his audit with which we’ll cooperate (and) our internal review, we want to make sure the process and procedures that are in place have the full confidence of the American people.”
According to the Treasury Department, the OIG is also investigating Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin after he and his wife took a chartered flight to Fort Knox last month in order to view the solar eclipse in Kentucky. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has also come under investigation after repeatedly traveling to his home state of Oklahoma at the taxpayers’ expense.
“Too many Trump administration officials have an entitled, millionaire mindset when it comes to squandering taxpayer money that does not belong to them just to support their lavish lifestyles,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement on Friday. “This starts at the very top, and the American people are not going to keep footing the bill for the Trump Administration’s champagne wishes and caviar dreams. It is clear that officials in the Trump administration have been spoiled by a culture of unaccountability, and they are emboldened by the failure of House Republicans to do their job under the Constitution to act as a check on the president and the executive branch. These are exactly the kinds of abuses the Oversight Committee is supposed to investigate and hold hearings on – and that’s exactly what we should do here.”