WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following recent reports of reckless spending by agency heads on travel accommodations, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) sent a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro requesting the Government Accountability Office (GAO) look into whether the travel by federal officials within the executive branch are cost effective and abide by the rules of the federal agency.

In the letter, Senator Ernst cited the U.S Code that requires employees to use the most “expeditious means of transportation” possible and should correspond “with the nature and purpose of the duties of the employee requiring such travel.”

Senator Ernst continued, stating that “unfortunately, it does not appear that agency heads are living up to the standards of this statute”.

The Iowa Senator asked the GAO the following:

  1. Are agency heads, political appointees, and career officials within the executive branch traveling in a cost-effective manner?
  2. Are the rules and procedures regarding the travel of agency heads, political appointees, and career officials effective in upholding 5 U.S.C. § 5733 and ensuring that the executive branch officials travel in a cost-effective manner? Are these regulations consistent across agencies within the executive branch?

She also requested “that the GAO’s report include recommendations for actions that can be taken by Congress and the executive branch to ensure that travel by federal officials is done in a cost-effective manner and that the regulations governing executive branch officials are effective and consistent across the executive branch.”

The full text of Senator Ernst’s letter to GAO Comptroller Dodaro can be found here or below.

The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro

Comptroller General of the United States

441 G Street, NW

Washington, DC 20548

 

Dear Mr. Dodaro,

 

I am writing to request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate travel by federal officials within the executive branch.

According to the U.S. Code, “The travel of an employee shall be by the most expeditious means of transportation practicable and shall be commensurate with the nature and purpose of the duties of the employee requiring such travel.” 

Unfortunately, it does not appear that agency heads are living up to the standards set by this statute. This fall, reports emerged that Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took numerous trips on private planes this year. According to some estimates, Secretary Price's 26 trips on private jets cost taxpayers over $400,000.

Troubling reports have also surfaced regarding the travel of other agency heads. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General is currently reviewing whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s trips to his home state violated EPA travel regulations.  Similar concerns have been raised regarding the travel of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

I respectfully request that the GAO answer the following questions:

1)    Are agency heads, political appointees, and career officials within the executive branch traveling in a cost-effective manner?

2)    Are the rules and procedures regarding the travel of agency heads, political appointees, and career officials effective in upholding 5 U.S.C. § 5733 and ensuring that the executive branch officials travel in a cost-effective manner? Are these regulations consistent across agencies within the executive branch?

I also request that the GAO’s report include recommendations for actions that can be taken by Congress and the executive branch to ensure that travel by federal officials is done in a cost-effective manner and that the regulations governing executive branch officials are effective and consistent across the executive branch.

If you have any additional questions, please contact Tyler Brown in Senator Joni Ernst’s office at (202) 224-3254.

 

                                                                        Sincerely,

 

                                                                        Joni K. Ernst

                                                                        United States Senator