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Government watchdog to probe EPA head’s travel

Government watchdog to probe EPA head’s travel
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog is launching a probe into Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA's scientific integrity in question over science rule Major unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE’s “frequent” travel to his home state of Oklahoma.

Officials in the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) notified agency leadership about the audit Monday, weeks after an environmental group said Pruitt was in Oklahoma or en route there for nearly half of his first three months in office, often using taxpayer funds.

Auditors will examine the EPA’s “adherence to policies, procedures and oversight controls” related to Pruitt’s travel, the notification said.

“This assignment is being initiated based on congressional requests and a hotline complaint, all of which expressed concerns about administrator Pruitt’s travel — primarily his frequent travel to and from his home state of Oklahoma at taxpayer expense,” auditors wrote.

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The Environmental Integrity Project and other groups questioned whether Pruitt is using EPA resources to further his personal or political goals.

The agency defended Pruitt’s travel, saying he works diligently and all of the travel that was billed to the government was for government work.

In addition, the group that compiled the report counted weekends, holidays and days spent partially in Washington, D.C., as full travel days, the EPA argued.

Pruitt also took on the critics himself.

“The folks talking about this, one, their facts are wrong, and that’s not a surprise. But it's an alt-EPA,” he told an Oklahoma television station while traveling there, referring to the social media identity of an anti-Trump group that claims to be composed of EPA employees.

“It’s a group of employees that worked for Obama, that formed an organization to put out these kinds of things that are not accurate and completely forthcoming as far as those issues,” Pruitt continued.

In its Monday notice, the OIG said its probe would examine the frequency, cost and extent of Pruitt’s travel to the Sooner State, whether the agency’s policies, and procedures were followed and whether current agency policies are sufficient to prevent waste, fraud and abuse related to Pruitt’s travel.

Auditors plan to start their work this month.