Scott Pruitt's $43K Phone Booth Broke the Law
Because the EPA didn't notify Congress, a government watchdog finds
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2018 1:54 PM CDT
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In this April 3, 2018, file photo, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at a news conference in Washington. An internal government watchdog says the EPA violated federal spending laws when purchasing a $43,000 soundproof privacy booth for Pruitt to make private phone calls in his office.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(Newser) – It may be a fresh week for Scott Pruitt, but it's not one void of uncomfortable headlines. ABC News reports a government watchdog has determined the EPA "violated section 710” of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act when it spent $43,000 on a "secure" phone booth for Pruitt's office. The Government Accountability Office explains that because the cost was in excess of $5,000, the EPA was required to alert Congress. Presidential appointees may make improvements to their offices up to that limit without telling Congress, and the GAO struck down the EPA's argument, reports the Washington Post: that the nearly $25,000 spent on the booth and the $18,000 in installation costs shouldn't be classified as redecoration and therefore shouldn't be beholden to that limit.

"Because EPA did not comply with the notification requirement, the funds were not legally available at the time EPA incurred the obligation," the GAO found and reported in a letter to the Senate Democrats who had asked for the spending review, per the AP. The GAO says the EPA is legally required to report its violation to Congress and to President Trump, and a rep for the agency says it will get "Congress the necessary information this week." The GAO did not pass any judgment on whether the booth was a justified expense; "EPA's failure to make the necessary notification is the only subject of this opinion," per the letter.

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