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The Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services Did Not Comply with Federal Regulations for Chartered Aircraft and Other Government Travel Related to Former Secretary Price

Former Secretary Price’s use of chartered aircraft, MilAir, and commercial aircraft did not always comply with applicable Federal regulations and HHS policies and procedures. As a result, the Office of the Secretary improperly used Federal funds related to former Secretary Price’s Government travel. Of the 21 trips, we determined that for one trip all applicable Federal requirements had been followed. The remaining 20 trips did not comply with Federal requirements, including all 12 chartered aircraft trips. Examples of noncompliance related to use of chartered aircraft included not completing a cost comparison to commercial airline service, not adhering to contract requirements, and not properly authorizing the use of chartered aircraft. We also found specific instances of noncompliance related to the travel records for former Secretary Price and certain HHS travelers. Insufficient review of authorizations and vouchers and many employees’ failure to complete required travel card training contributed to these instances of noncompliance. Overall, we determined that the use of chartered aircraft and identified noncompliance issues resulted in waste of Federal funds totaling at least $341,000.

We recommend that the Office of the Secretary review the lack of compliance with Federal requirements, and based on the review, determine appropriate administrative actions to recoup (1) $333,014 related to the authorization and use of chartered aircraft; (2) $4,926 related to travel that started or ended in locations other than the official duty station; and (3) $2,960 related to other excess travel costs. We also make procedural recommendations to improve processes and internal controls related to the use of chartered aircraft and to ensure compliance with applicable Federal regulations and HHS policies and procedures.

In written comments on our draft report, HHS concurred with most of our recommendations and described actions that it has taken or planned to take to address them, such as implementing mandatory travel policy training to all non-career personnel and issuing new policy. HHS also asked us to clarify amounts used in our first monetary recommendation to estimate waste totaling $333,014. In response, we updated the recommendation to reflect the specific waste amounts.

Filed under: General Departmental