EPA inspector general to continue Pruitt-related audits following resignation

The Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General will continue its investigations into former administrator Scott Pruitt following his sudden r...

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General will continue its probes related to former administrator Scott Pruitt following his sudden resignation last week, the agency watchdog confirmed to Federal News Radio on Thursday.

Kentia Elbaum, an EPA OIG spokeswoman, said the inspector general’s office would continue its work on five ongoing audits that pertain to Pruitt’s tenure as EPA administrator.

The agency watchdog’s audits include a look at Pruitt’s spending on official travel, including several first-class flights, and Pruitt’s spending on 24/7 security.

The EPA OIG said it expects to release a final report for three of its audits as early as August.

However, the IG office added that it might not open any new inquiries related to Pruitt’s time at the agency.

“In response to various requests, the EPA OIG previously agreed to take on a number of additional issues related to Mr. Pruitt,” Elbaum said in an email. “At the time, we explained that those issues either would be incorporated into ongoing audits or become the subjects of newly initiated audits or investigations. However, we were unsure when we would be able to get to initiating the new work. To the extent that such topics are not being pursued as investigations (which we cannot acknowledge either way), we soon will inform requestors directly if the EPA OIG at this point no longer plans to undertake related work.”

Per its policy, the EPA OIG  won’t publicly announce the closure of any cases where the requestor didn’t publicize the request.

Jennifer Kaplan, the deputy assistant inspector general for congressional and public affairs, told Federal News Radio that the ongoing EPA audits are “based on programmatic, systemic and/or operational issues at the EPA and is not solely related to Scott Pruitt’s activities.”

The IG announcement comes after Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) introduced an amendment to a fiscal 2019 spending bill that would ensure that the agency watchdog continues its Pruitt-related oversight work.

“Throughout his tenure at the EPA he never missed an opportunity to exploit his public office for personal gain and the fact that Republicans looked the other way is shameful,” Connolly said in a statement. “Allowing the EPA inspector general to continue these investigations unimpeded is a step toward restoring accountability of the Trump cabinet.”

House lawmakers continue EPA investigation

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will also proceed with its ongoing investigation into Pruitt.

“The committee will continue its investigation into spending and mismanagement at the EPA,” Committee spokeswoman Amanda Gonzalez Thompson told Federal News Radio in an email.

Shortly after Pruitt resigned, committee Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) released new excerpts from interviews with current and former EPA aides.

In a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr., Cummings described further incidents of Pruitt’s use of agency employees to attend to personal matters.

In April, the Government Accountability Office found the EPA violated federal spending laws when it spent $43,000 of a soundproof “privacy booth” in Pruitt’s office without notifying the House and Senate appropriations committees.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told lawmakers his agency would investigate the claims made in GAO’s report and determine what punishment, if any, would be necessary.

Elbaum said the EPA OIG could not confirm or deny the existence of any criminal investigations into Pruitt.

“We can say that any criminal investigations that may have existed at the time of Mr. Pruitt’s resignation will continue,” she added.

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