The Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly $700,000 for parking spots that no one used during the final two years of the Obama administration.
The office of inspector general released an audit Wednesday finding the agency wasted taxpayer dollars on subsidized parking for employees at its Washington, D.C., headquarters.
"Only EPA headquarters (based in Washington, D.C.) and Region 4 (based in Atlanta, Georgia) subsidized employee parking," the inspector general said. "These offices paid over $840,000 to subsidize employee parking from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2016."
"In this time period, none of the other EPA regional offices provided their employees with subsidized parking, which is not a required employee benefit," the inspector general added.
Not only did the EPA use resources on unnecessary parking benefits that could have gone towards environmental projects, it also paid $293.45 per month for parking spots that were not being used. More than a quarter of the parking spots the EPA paid for its D.C. headquarters were unoccupied.
"We also found that, from January 2015 through December 2016, 29 percent of the parking spaces that headquarters leased for its employees and 27 percent of the parking spaces that Region 4 leased for its employees remained unoccupied," the inspector general said. "The EPA paid approximately $690,000 for these unoccupied parking spaces."
The inspector general said the $1.5 million spent on subsidized parking and unused parking spots could have been used for mission-critical work.
"While the parking subsidy is permitted, it is not required," the inspector general said. "In an age of dwindling federal resources, the EPA's use of taxpayer money—over $840,000 in a 2-year period—to fund employee parking may not be an effective use of federal resources and may take funds away from mission-critical public health and environmental initiatives."
Under administrator Scott Pruitt, the EPA made plans to return 53 unused parking spaces earlier this year, which would save taxpayers $186,634.20 annually.