Interior watchdog says Zinke did not properly document his travel
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has failed to keep complete records detailing his travel since taking office, the agency’s inspector general concluded in a memo released Thursday.
“Documentation and adherence to the departmental travel policies [are] deficient and without proper management oversight and accountability,” Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall wrote in her report.
The current departmental review process for approving travel also does not adequately distinguish between personal, political and official travel, the watchdog concluded.
The Interior’s inspector general began investigating Zinke’s travel habits early last month after it was revealed that he had taken multiple chartered or military flights since taking office as secretary in March.
Zinke has downplayed concerns over his travel, calling them “a little BS,” and saying he took private flights only after “extensive due diligence by the career professionals in the department’s general law and ethics division.”
The inspector general’s office is also investigating Zinke’s wife, Lola, requesting information related to times she has traveled with her husband on official business.
In her memo, dated Wednesday, Kendall requested more documents related to the Zinkes’ travel and recommended the department overhaul its internal travel management system.
Kendall wrote in her memo to Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt that the office has “received full cooperation from all employees contacted” but that Zinke’s office has not completed “many authorizations and vouchers required” for travel taken by Zinke so far this year.
Bernhardt replied to Kendall on Thursday, blaming the delay on a “dysfunctional” documentation process dating from the Obama administration.
“When I arrived at the department in August 2017, it was clear to me that the secretary and I inherited an organizational and operational mess from the previous administration,” he wrote in a letter to Kendall.
He pledged to provide all the documents the Office of Inspector General was requesting.