EPA Watchdog Faults Agency Over Pruitt Security Costs

(CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency failed to document why former administrator Scott Pruitt needed more an $3,5 million in security spending in 2017, a federal watchdog said in a report released Tuesday.

The EPA’s inspector general found the cost of Pruitt’s security costs round-the-clock protective detail jumped from $1.6 million to $3.5 million in the span of just 11 months.

The office of the Inspector General Arthur Elkins also concluded that the excesses were incurred, in part, because the agency doesn’t have a formal threat analysis or assessment process in place to decide how much security was warranted for the former administrator.

In light of their findings, the watchdog has recommended that “new policies, procedures and/or guidance” be implemented that would define the amount of time security agents can spend on “investigating environmental crimes,” the report states.

Beyond the amount of time, the watchdog also wants the agency to document how security agents spend their time while on duty.

When reached for comment Tuesday, EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said the agency agreed with the OIG’S recommendation to conduct regular threat analyses but disagreed with the watchdog’s “characterization of how a level of protective services is determined.”

“Specifically, because persons intending harm often do not make threats, EPA believes based on the Department of Justice’s report ‘Protective Intelligence and Threat Assessment Investigations,’ Secret Service practices and real-life scenarios, such as the recent attack on the Republican Congressional baseball team and the [2011] shooting of [Rep. Gabrielle Giffords]; that a threat analysis cannot be the sole source of information used to determine if protective services are provided,” Abboud said.

Despite some disagreements on those specifics, the EPA said it will conduct a threat analysis twice a year and will continue to “manage staffing and scheduling of the administrator’s protective service detail” based on the level of protection needed.

The OIG also found that private security detail agents accrued overtime without authorization.

This resulted in “improper payments of $106,507 between January 2016 and March 2017,” the report states.

“Additionally, the Office of General Counsel incorrectly terminated a debt owed by a private security detail agent, resulting in the agent exceeding the annual pay cap,” the report said.

The EPA’s roll out of a new policy addressing how agents spend time investigating environmental crimes begins September 30.

Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt resigned on July 5 following a tenure dogged with persistent controversies over his spending, ethics and management of the agency.

A former lobbyist for coal giant Murray Energy, Andrew Wheeler, has since replaced him. Wheeler was confirmed as Pruitt’s deputy administrator by Congress in April.

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