Price ‘improperly used federal funds’ in 20 out of 21 trips: IG

Price ‘improperly used federal funds’ in 20 out of 21 trips: IG
© Greg Nash

An inspector general report released Friday finds that former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Mueller indicts 12 Russian officials for DNC hack | Trump does damage control after bombshell interview MORE’s use of private planes for travel resulted in $341,000 in wasted federal dollars.

The HHS Inspector General report finds that Price violated federal regulations in taking the trips and “improperly used federal funds.”

Of 21 trips reviewed by the IG, the report finds that 20 did not comply with federal regulations. For example, HHS did not compare the cost of flying on commercial airlines before using private aircraft, the report finds.

Price was forced to resign last year after the revelation of his travel on private aircraft.

A spokesman for Price, Nicholas Peters, pointed to HHS staff as being responsible, saying "the report addresses overall functions of Department staff charged with administering travel."
 
"There is no indication in the IG report that the paperwork and regulatory issues of Department staff were anything other than good faith mistakes," he added. 

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HHS said Friday that the agency has reformed its travel practices since then, including “further training” and filing a “checklist” with supervisors or the general counsel’s office.

Current HHS Secretary Alex Azar has flown commercial for all of his official travel, except for three instances which were at the request of the White House, HHS said. He has paid personally for travel to his home in Indiana, HHS added.

“The department understands the auditor’s concern that the processes and record keeping regarding travel could have been more comprehensive, and, since the period examined by the audit, HHS has instituted new travel review procedures applicable to all political appointees,” said Deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan.

But he said the travel was legal. “As a matter of law, none of the travel at issue was unauthorized,” he said.

-- Updated 1:58 p.m.