Wednesday | March 21, 2018

Sen. Scott to Sec. Carson: American People Deserve Answers on Lavish Purchase

Washington- On a snowy day in Washington, U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) wrote to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson demanding answers regarding recent reports that HUD purchased a $31,561 dining room set for Secretary Carson’s office, as well as what role the Secretary played in its purchase. Scott is the Chairman of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Urban Development, which has oversight jurisdiction over HUD.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Carson:

At your confirmation hearing last January, you testified that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is “part of the solution, helping ensure housing security and strong communities.” I agreed with that statement then as I do now.


That is why I was deeply disappointed to see press reports on your alleged involvement in the purchase of a $31,561 dining room set of furniture for your office. Furthermore, statements from your official spokesperson denying your participation in the purchase directly conflict with emails sent by HUD’s staff that were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.


When asked about this yesterday during your appearance before the House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, you stated, “I can tell you what I did. I do not intend to be responsible for what anyone else said.” To me, that is the definition of the buck stopping somewhere else.


At an annual spending level that tops $47 billion, there is no question that costs could and should be cut at HUD. I was glad to work with you on incorporating the Family Self-Sufficiency Act (S. 1344), which eliminates redundant HUD programs, in legislation that the Senate passed last week. That said, those efforts are for naught should you fail to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars.


Knowing the value you place on transparency and accountability from public officials, please answer the following in writing:


I. Did you personally select and approve the purchase of this furniture? If you did not, who did? Was that individual a HUD employee at the time? If not, is it legal for someone not employed by HUD to make such a decision related to Department expenses?

II. During your testimony for the House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies yesterday, you referenced “safety issues” related to the old dining table set. Do you have any documentation related to these incidences you can share?


III. Was the order for the furniture rescinded before the set was delivered to your office? And if the order has been rescinded, was HUD reimbursed the full $31,561 listed on the purchase order?


IV. How will the new financial controls at HUD you announced on March 15, 2018, prevent further similar incidences?
Please provide answers as soon as possible, but by no later than 5:00 p.m. on April 6, 2018. I look forward to discussing this request with you further during your appearance before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on March 22, 2018.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Tim Scott
Chairman
Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development

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