Former HHS Secretary Tom Price took 20 trips that did not comply with federal requirements, according to the department’s inspector general, who urged the agency in a Friday report to recover at least $341,000 from the former secretary.
Price, who was forced out last year following a POLITICO investigation into his extravagant use of private and military aircraft, has voluntarily repaid the government about $60,000, but it was not immediately clear how or if he would repay the rest. A department spokesman said it will seek guidance from the Justice Department as to “whether there is legal basis for recoupment.”
Price could not immediately be reached for comment.
The OIG review, which came about 10 months after Price’s resignation, found he spent more than $1.2 million on travel during his tenure at HHS, including use of chartered aircraft and government planes.
Many of Price’s flights were between major cities that offered inexpensive alternatives on commercial airlines, including Nashville, Philadelphia and San Diego. Price also used military aircraft for multinational trips to Africa, Europe and Asia.
Price, a Georgia Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than a decade before President Donald Trump nominated him to take charge at HHS, led the agency for roughly seven months before the travel scandal forced him to resign last September.
Price was the first to depart Trump’s Cabinet, which has undergone major churn amid investigations into officials’ ethical behavior in office. Scott Pruitt was forced out as EPA administrator last week, facing more than a dozen probes into his travel, spending and ties to lobbyists. David Shulkin, who was fired as Veterans Affairs secretary in March, was flagged for improper spending on overseas travel in a scathing inspector general’s report several weeks before his ouster.
The White House has since cracked down on use of private planes, telling Cabinet officials that chief of staff John Kelly must approve almost all travel on “government-owned, rented, leased, or chartered aircraft.”
HHS stressed that the department’s policies changed since Price’s tenure.
“All HHS political appointees have undergone further training regarding government travel rules and procedures and are required to file a checklist before each trip with their supervisor or the Office of the General Counsel,” a spokesperson said.