Presidential appointees are required to let congressional lawmakers know about any office upgrades that exceed $5,000, according to the letter obtained by the Washington Post. "Further, because EPA obligated appropriated funds in a manner specifically prohibited by law, we conclude that EPA violated the Antideficiency Act".
Though Congressional notification was the only subject of the brief, GAO also remarked that EPA already has two Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs)-installations through which classified information can be shared.
Pruitt has faced growing criticism and angry questioning from Democratic and Republican lawmakers over his spending habits.
EPA interpreted the requirement it notify Congress applies to "aesthetic improvement (s)" made to Pruitt's office, and compared the $43,000 booth to purchasing other electronics required for an employee's job. Along with the $24,570 contract for the actual booth, that sum included $7,978 to remove closed-circuit television cameras, $3,470 for concrete floor leveling, $3,360.97 to install a drop ceiling, $3,350 for patchwork and painting, and $509.71 for cabling and wiring.
GAO declined to comment on whether the soundproof booth, which was built out of a former storage closet in the administrator's office, was the most effective way to ensure private communications. Previous EPA chiefs did not use a secured phone booth in their office to run the agency.
Pruitt insisted that the "privacy" booth was necessary for him to "make and receive calls to discuss sensitive information".
Back in December, Pruitt told the House Energy and Commerce Committee he needed the equipment to conduct secure conversations with White House officials.
"It's simple: Pruitt broke the law, and no amount of excuses can save him now", Brune added. Pruitt's office did not notify Congress about the excessive spending, the GAO contends, in violation of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.
The report was requested by the top Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (Thomas R. Carper of Delaware), the Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee (Tom Udall of New Mexico), the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon) and the House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee (Betty McCollum of Minnesota).