World

US health Secretary quits over expensive private plane trips

President Trump joked in July that if Tom Price failed on the Republican healthcare plan he would be fired

US Health Secretary Tom Price has resigned over the use of expensive private planes for official business.He previously apologised after making 26 private flights since May at a cost of $400,000 (£300,000) to taxpayers.

Government officials, except those dealing with national security matters, are required to take commercial flights for work related travel.

Three other members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet are under scrutiny for using private planes while working.

A White House statement said President Trump had accepted Mr Price’s resignation, adding that Don J Wright had been designated as acting health secretary. Mr Wright is currently deputy assistant secretary for health.

In his letter of resignation, seen by the New York Times, Mr Price said he regretted that “recent events have created a distraction” from the work of the health department.

An investigation by the political news website Politico found that Mr Price’s travels had cost more than $1m (£750,000).

As well as the $400,000 for private flights, that figure includes the cost of military aircraft used for Mr Price’s trips abroad, Politico added.

President Trump had earlier said he was “not happy” with the expense.

Mr Price had promised to repay the cost of his seats on private flights, saying: “The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.”

Hours before Mr Price’s resignation he told White House reporters: “He’s a very fine man. We’re going to make a decision sometime tonight.”

Possible candidates to succeed Mr Price include Scott Gottlieb, currently commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Seema Verma, who is administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Three other members of Mr Trump’s cabinet are under scrutiny for their use of private planes while on the job:

  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke flew from Las Vegas to Montana last June on a private jet that cost taxpayers more than $12,000, according to Politico and the Washington Post

 

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is accused of flying with his wife to view last month’s solar eclipse

 

  • Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has spent more than $58,000 on non-commercial travel

As well as the Vegas-Montana trip – a route served by commercial flights – Mr Zinke is also reported to have used private jets between St Croix and St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands in March, and a military aircraft to travel to Norway in May.

Interior department spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement that, as with previous interior secretaries, Mr Zinke “travelled on charter flights when there were no commercial options available”.

“All travel is pre-approved by the ethics office before booking and the charter flights went through an additional level of due diligence,” she said.

Source BBC

 

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