OUCH! WATCHDOG FAULTS EPA OVER PRUITT SECURITY

photo of EPA's HQ building

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog says the agency didn’t have proper justification for former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s security costs, which were double his predecessor’s.

In a stinging report issued Tuesday morning, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said the agency didn’t even have a legal justification to provide a security force for Pruitt until auditors prodded agency attorneys for more than a year.

Auditors said Pruitt’s security costs were $3.5 million in his first 11 months, more than double that of Gina McCarthy, the last EPA chief under former President Barack Obama.

The report provided some fodder for the Trump administration’s critics, who are now pointing to it to prove that Pruitt was reckless with taxpayer’s money.

“Failure to properly justify the level of protective services provided to the Administrator has allowed costs to increase from $1.6 million to $3.5 million in just 11 months,” the OIG, led by Inspector General Arthur Elkins, wrote in the report.

The report concluded it was an “undocumented decision” and “an inefficient use of agency resources.”

While the EPA routinely asserted throughout Pruitt’s tenure that the security detail was justified due to a number of threats made against the administrator, the OIG found that the EPA never conducted a true threat analysis to determine the need for increased security.

Back story (How could we forget?): Pruitt resigned from the EPA in July, after a rocky 16-month tenure laced with five months of controversy over his compliance with ethics rules and over spending of taxpayer money. His ballooning security costs, including his decision to have unprecedented 24/7 security protection, were central to the scandals.

EPA’s defense: In its own statement, the EPA defended its decisions regarding Pruitt’s security.

“Because persons intending harm often do not make threats, EPA believes — based on DOJ’s report, ‘Protective Intelligence & Threat Assessment Investigations,’ Secret Service practices and real-life scenarios such as the recent attack on the Republican Congressional baseball team and the shooting of Representative [Gabrielle] Giffords [D-Ariz.] — that a threat analysis cannot be the sole source of information used to determine if protective services are provided or the level of protection,” EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said in a statement.

“Accordingly, there is no support for the OIG’s insinuation that expenditures for protective services carried out before a threat analysis was conducted were not justified.”

The report is here

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