Ex-HHS Secretary Possibly on the Hook for $341,000 in Travel Bills
A watchdog group in the US government said in a report on Friday that ex-Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price wasted at least $341,000 on travel while he held his position.
The HHS inspector general said that Price did not follow federal regulations that require officials to book the most cost-effective travel options when paying with taxpayer money and that the department “improperly used federal funds related to Sec. Price’s government travel.”
According to the report, Price spent more than $480,000 on private-chartered aircraft for various domestic trips without considering scheduled commercial flights as a cheaper alternative. Investigators disputed Price's argument that his official schedule precluded him from flying with commercial carriers.
Even when chartering private planes, Price's office did not choose the cheapest options, the report found, with one difference in amount to $46,000.
The report recommended that the government recoup the calculated $341,000 in wasted travel bills.
In its response to the inspector general's report, the HHS Department said it agreed with the watchdog on enforcing federal travel requirements and wanted more information on how to pursue the $341,000. Following the report's release, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan released a statement saying the department has issued new travel regulations that are "the most rigorous controls on travel in the organization’s history.”
While he was HHS Secretary, Tom Price's travel habits came under rebuke from both Republicans and Democrats and were a major factor in his September 2017 ouster from President Donald Trump's cabinet. Price has previously apologized for his travel spending and already repaid the US government $60,000.