Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told lawmakers on Thursday that the controversial sound proof booth installed his office is not the type used for classified information, contradicting his past justification of the $43,000 purchase.
"This is actually not a SCIF," Pruitt said, using the acronym for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities.
In December, he appeared before the same House Energy and Commerce subcommittee and told the same member of Congress a different story.
"It's a SCIF, what we call a Sensitive Compartmental Information Facility. Is that right?" asked Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat.
"There are -- yes," Pruitt answered.
"Did you do that because part of the EPA's mission involves classified information?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am, part of that," Pruitt said. "But there are also communications with the White House. There are secure conversations that need to take place at times."
The Government Accountability Office concluded earlier this month that the EPA violated federal spending law by not notifying Congress before making the purchase. EPA attorneys disagree with that finding, Pruitt noted Thursday, but the agency has said it will retroactively notify Congress.
Pruitt said the EPA was "investigating" the purchase but did not specify what that entailed.
"We are investigating this internally with appropriate individuals both here and the inspector general," he said Thursday.
Pruitt elaborated on the origins of the both and said if he was involved with approving the project knowing the cost, he would have not approved it.
"It has not been certified as a SCIF," Pruitt told the panel. "It does provide protection on confidential communications. I think it's important to know, Congressman, where this originated. I did have a phone call that came in of a sensitive nature and I did not have access to secure communications. I gave directions to my staff to address. And out of that came a $43,000 expenditure that I did not approve. That is something that should not occur."