A report released by the HHS inspector general revealed that the travel of former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price repeatedly violated federal requirements; the report therefore urged the department to attempt to recoup at least $341,000.
Price was a U.S. Representative for Georgia from 2005 until 2017, when he was selected by President Donald Trump as the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. He served as HHS Secretary from February 2017 until he resigned in September 2017 amid growing concern and criticism regarding his travel.
The OIG report was released this month, approximately 10 months after his resignation.
According to the OIG report, Price and his staff spent more than $1.2 million on 21 trips during Price’s seven months at the department; below is a portion of the report (emphasis mine):
Former Secretary Price’s use of chartered aircraft, MilAir, and commercial aircraft did not always comply with applicable Federal regulations and HHS policies and procedures. As a result, the Office of the Secretary improperly used Federal funds related to former Secretary Price’s Government travel.
Of [former Secretary Price’s] 21 trips, we determined that for one trip all applicable Federal requirements had been followed. The remaining 20 trips did not comply with Federal requirements, including all 12 chartered aircraft trips.
Examples of noncompliance related to use of chartered aircraft included not completing a cost comparison to commercial airline service, not adhering to contract requirements, and not properly authorizing the use of chartered aircraft. We also found specific instances of noncompliance related to the travel records for former Secretary Price and certain HHS travelers. Insufficient review of authorizations and vouchers and many employees’ failure to complete required travel card training contributed to these instances of noncompliance.
Overall, we determined that the use of chartered aircraft and identified noncompliance issues resulted in waste of Federal funds totaling at least $341,000.
However, it is not currently known whether the remaining amount will be repaid.
According to POLITICO, an HHS spokesperson said the Justice Department would determine “whether or not there is legal basis for recoupment,” while a Price spokesperson declined to answer regarding recoupment, though Price spokesman Nicholas Peters did say “media coverage inaccurately states the report takes issue with Dr. Price’s actions.”
Read the OIG report in full here. Unfortunately, it seems as though the department was unconcerned about saving taxpayer funds — which makes it even more disappointing to recall that Tom Price once criticized “wasteful” and “reckless” spending of taxpayer dollars by Washington:
Washington has grown fat on bloated, wasteful spending for far too long. http://tiny.cc/vrchs
— Tom Price (@RepTomPrice) May 20, 2010
Reckless spending habits employed by Democrats in Washington are driving the debt. We need #spendingcutsnow
— Tom Price (@RepTomPrice) May 31, 2011
In the meantime, the Health and Human Services Department has at least updated its requirements and training regarding travel, compliance, and expenses.
“All HHS political appointees have undergone further training regarding government travel rules and procedures and are required to file a checklist before each trip with their supervisor or the Office of the General Counsel,” an HHS spokesperson said, according to POLITICO.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.