The White House says it didn’t sign off on what are reportedly at least two dozen private-jet trips taken by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price that are now under review by the department’s inspector general.
Price took at least 24 flights on private airplanes since he became a cabinet secretary in February, Politico reported this week. The trips have cost taxpayers more than $300,000 and were a sharp departure from Price’s predecessors, who typically used commercial flights in the continental U.S., according to Politico.
“The White House doesn’t sign off for cabinet travel so would direct you to HHS for any comments,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
HHS’s Office of Inspector General is reviewing the travel to determine whether it complies with federal regulations, Tesia Williams, a spokeswoman for the OIG, said in an email Friday.
“We take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue,” Williams said. “I can confirm that work is under way and will be completed as soon as possible.”
The health department defended the trips, saying Price’s schedule was difficult and his workdays long.
“Within an incredibly demanding schedule full of 13+ hour days, every effort is being made to maximize Secretary Price’s ability to travel outside Washington to meet with the American people and carry out HHS’s missions,” said Charmaine Yoest, an HHS spokeswoman. “The travel department continues to check every possible source for travel needs including commercial, but commercial travel is not always feasible.”
Price is the second official in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to face scrutiny over travel. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came under fire earlier this month after news emerged that he sought to use a government plane for his honeymoon in August and the use of an Air Force jet for a trip to Kentucky on Aug. 21 to talk about tax policy and to visit Fort Knox.
The Treasury’s inspector general is reviewing all of Mnuchin’s use of and requests for government aircraft.