The Government Accountability Office said in a new report that it concluded the Environmental Protection Agency broke a spending law when paying for the installation of a soundproof phone booth for administrator Scott Pruitt.
The agency spent $43,000 for installing the privacy booth in Pruitt’s office, one of a number of expenditures for which the administrator is under scrutiny from Congress. The agency did not send advance notice of this purchase to Congressional committees.
“Section 710 prohibits an agency from obligating or expending an amount in excess of $5,000 to furnish, redecorate, purchase furniture for, or make improvements for the office of a presidential appointee during the period of appointment without prior notification to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate,” reads the report.
It also states, “We conclude that EPA violated section 710 when it obligated $43,238.68 for the installation of a soundproof privacy booth without providing advance notice to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate.”
The GAO report also said that it concluded that the EPA was in violation of the Antideficiency Act because the agency “obligated appropriated funds in a manner specifically prohibited by law.”
GAO noted in its report that the EPA maintained that the installation of the booth was a necessary expense, a point which GAO did not argue. It only said in the report that the proper process of making the expenditure was violated.
“EPA should report its Antideficiency Act violation as required by law,” said the report.
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) said in a statement that EPA must explain why it thought spending the money on the phone booth was legal.
“It is critical that EPA and all federal agencies comply with notification requirements to Congress before spending tax payer dollars,” said Barrasso. “EPA must give a full public accounting of this expenditure and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law.”
A copy of the report is included below.