Senate Democrats want to know why the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not recovered any of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on improper charter flight travel by the agency’s former secretary, Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Former Georgia ethics official to challenge McBath A proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US MORE.
In a letter to the agency on Thursday, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves Warren, Jayapal demand answers on reported judicial ethics violations Warren calls for Amazon breakup MORE (D-Mass.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats' reconciliation bill breaks Biden's middle class tax pledge Missouri education department calls journalist 'hacker' for flagging security flaws on state website Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates MORE (D-Ore.), and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBuilding strong public health capacity across the US Texas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill MORE (D-Wash.) demanded answers as to why HHS has not followed through on numerous recommendations from the agency’s inspector general to recoup the money, and to implement changes to ensure there is no more wasteful spending.
The letter comes more than a year after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) recommended HHS recover at least $341,000 of misused federal funds and take steps to ensure the abuse of taxpayer money does not occur again.
“But the OIG has told our offices that 14 months after the recommendations were issued, HHS has not provided proof of any demonstrable progress toward resolving them, and that all seven recommendations remain outstanding,” the lawmakers wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
The report found that Price violated federal regulations and “improperly used federal funds” in 20 of 21 trips reviewed by the agency watchdog. In total, the flights cost taxpayers $1.2 million, and Price was forced to resign after less than 10 months on the job.
At the time of the report in 2018, HHS said it was reviewing the legal basis for recouping the funds spent by Price.
An HHS spokesperson said the agency has asked the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel to review the legal basis for recoupment. The spokesperson did not say when the request was made, or when a response is expected.
Price, an orthopedic surgeon, was a longtime congressman from Georgia before he was elevated to the position of HHS secretary. He has applied to be the replacement for current Georgia Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonHerschel Walker calls off fundraiser with woman who had swastika in Twitter profile Georgia reporter says state will 'continue to be a premier battleground' Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms MORE (R) who is retiring at the end of the year.
— This report was updated at 11:57 a.m.