Tom Price wasted $341,000 in taxpayer funds on travel during his tenure as secretary of health and human services, according to an HHS inspector general’s report released Friday.
Price, who resigned from the post in September after the improper expenditures were exposed, took 21 trips that involved flights while in office, 20 of which did not adhere to federal regulations governing the travel of public employees.
“Of the 21 trips, we determined that for one trip all applicable Federal requirements had been followed,” the report said. “The remaining 20 trips did not comply with Federal requirements, including all 12 chartered aircraft trips.”
The total cost of the examined trips, which were both international and domestic, was $1.2 million. The most expensive journey was an eight-day trip to Asia on a military aircraft that cost tax payers $432,000.
Price, a physician and former congressman, has repaid $52,000 of the wasted funds, but it is unclear, as a legal matter, whether he is required to repay the remaining $289,000, according to the report.
The Trump administration, which has been plagued in recent month by allegations of impropriety related to the conduct of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, has made numerous public assurances that the process for clearing employees’ travel expenses has been overhauled to prevent the kinds of abuses committed by Price.
“Significant changes have occurred in the travel policies of HHS and throughout the administration, so that going forward, spending on chartered air travel similar to those examined here are unlikely to recur,” wrote Heather Flick, the acting assistant secretary for administration at the department.
A spokesman for Price disputed his responsibility for the expenditures and attributed any violations to a systemic failure in a statement provided to National Review.
“The IG did not interview Dr. Price. Media coverage inaccurately states the report takes issue with Dr. Price’s actions. In fact, the report addresses overall functions of Department staff charged with administering travel. Deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargen has confirmed today that, (quote) ‘As a matter of law none of the travel of former Secretary Price addressed in today’s HHS Inspector General Report was ‘unauthorized,’’ the statement read. “There is no indication in the IG report that the paperwork and regulatory issues of Department staff were anything other than good faith mistakes. Dr. Price salutes the professional career staff of the Department for their tireless dedication to its critical mission on behalf of the American people.”