Agency failed to justify Pruitt’s security spending — IG

Source: Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2018

EPA did not document why former Administrator Scott Pruitt needed increased security protection even as costs skyrocketed for his personal security detail, the agency’s inspector general said.

Pruitt, the former EPA chief who resigned in July after being overwhelmed by ethics allegations, was provided with 24/7 protection, a greater security presence compared with his predecessors’. In a reportreleased this morning, the agency’s internal watchdog found that EPA had spent millions more on the protective service detail that guards the administrator than it had on previous administrators.

The IG said Pruitt’s security detail costs from Feb. 1 through Dec. 31 of last year increased over 110 percent compared with the prior period and without documented justification.

“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,” said the report.

An EPA spokesman told E&E News that the agency disagreed with the IG in determining how much protection is needed for the administrator.

“Specifically, 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 [former Arizona Democratic] Rep. [Gabby] Giffords — that a threat analysis cannot be the sole source of information used to determine if protective services are provided or the level of protection,” said the spokesman, referring to a 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball game practice in which Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was injured and a 2011 shooting in Arizona that killed six and left Giffords injured.

“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 IG also found security agents worked overtime without proper authorization, which resulted in improper payments of $106,507 between January 2016 and March 2017.

Investigators also questioned whether EPA had the law enforcement authority to provide protection to the administrator. The agency prepared a legal opinion in response to the report that asserted EPA’s protective service did have that authority.