The head of the Senate environment committee said on Monday the Environmental Protection Agency must give a full public accounting of its approval of $43,000 for a private soundproof phone booth for agency chief Scott Pruitt.
The EPA was required to tell Congress before it purchased the phone booth, exceeding the $5,000 limit on decorating and furnishing Pruitt's office, but didn't.
A 2017 spending bill capped at $5,000 expenditures to "furnish, redecorate, purchase furniture for, or make improvements for the office of a presidential appointee".
The E.P.A. said the secure phone booth was necessary "to make and receive phone calls and to discuss sensitive information, including classified telephone calls up to the top secret level".More news: Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) Lifted to "Buy" at Vetr Inc
"Because EPA did not comply with the notification requirement, the funds were not legally available at the time EPA incurred the obligation", the GAO wrote in the report.
Without advance notice to lawmakers, EPA obligated $43,239 from its fiscal 2017 environmental programs and management account to install the soundproof privacy booth in Pruitt's office, according to the GAO decision.
ABC News has reached out to the EPA for a response. If it's security that concerns Pruitt, the EPA chief would be just as safe flying in the back of an airplane because most people wouldn't recognize him, the Republican congressman said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday".
"The reason the Oversight Committee wants to know whether or not the EPA is a good steward of taxpayer money is because Congress created the EPA; we fund the EPA", Gowdy said in the Sunday morning interview. Also being sought is information about the lease for a bedroom in a Capitol Hill condominium that Pruitt rented a year ago.More news: Shire sells cancer drugs to Servier for $2.4B as Takeda circles
EPA representatives said they were cooperating with the request.
Statements from environmental groups also poured in, with several calling on Pruitt to leave the agency. Later, he also met with Republican staffers on Gowdy's committee, resulting in Friday's letter from the chairman.
Last week, a group of House and Senate Democrats published a detailed list of allegations suggesting mismanagement and lavish spending by Pruitt and his office.
The agency concluded that the EPA should report the violations, which would require a report to the President and Congress, according to federal law.More news: Epic Games Apologizes for Fortnite Downtime with Free Loot
EPA in the past has run up against GAO legal opinions.