March 23, 2018 / 8:31 PM / a year ago

Republican lawmaker seeks Trump Cabinet secretary's pricey door fix details

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke testifies in front of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican head of a government oversight panel in Congress asked U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this week to provide details on a contract to replace doors in his office that initially ran to $139,000, one of several inquiries by lawmakers of spending by Trump administration officials.

In a letter dated March 22 and seen by Reuters, U.S. House of Representatives oversight committee chairman Trey Gowdy asked Zinke to brief him on the need to replace the doors and provide details on the acquisition process, bidding and receipts.

The Interior Department said earlier this month that it was spending the money to fix three sets of double doors in Zinke’s office. It said then that career facilities officials requested the replacements as part of a decade-long overhaul of the building, which was completed in 1936.

Zinke has since directed the scope of the project to be changed, lowering the cost to $75,000, department spokeswoman Heather Swift said.

Joe Nassar, the director of Interior’s office of facilities, has said the door replacements were needed to stop water from coming into Zinke’s office during rain storms, which was damaging wooden floors. Nassar said bottom panels of the old doors had been temporarily fixed with cardboard and duct tape.

Gowdy has also scrutinized the spending of two other Cabinet-level officials in Republican President Donald Trump’s administration - Ben Carson of the Housing and Urban Development agency over reports of lavish spending on office furniture and Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

A batch of Pruitt’s travel expenses requested by Gowdy and obtained by the Washington Post showed he spent $68,000 on hotel stays and air travel on first-class and domestic flights from August 2017 through February 2018. Pruitt’s private security detail accompanied him on first-class flights because it had identified threats that security protocol required Pruitt to be near the front of the plane, the EPA said.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Grant McCool

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