If confirmed as the next head of the Department of Human and Health Services, Alex Azar may bring stability to an agency still trying to regain its footing since the resignation of Tom Price, M.D., in the wake of outrage over his use of private jets for government business.
Price stepped down from the high-profile position in late September after a Politico investigation revealed Price racked up $1 million in expenses by using private and military jets for official travel instead of less expensive commercial flights.
Politico now reports that the HHS Office of Inspector General will review who approved or should have approved the travel. The latest article said that the federal investigation may look at John Bardis, the agency’s assistant secretary for administration, who oversees the travel approval process along with the HHS general counsel’s office.
The investigation is expected to be completed in the spring.
Bardis, who was appointed to the position in March, had ties to Price prior to the appointment, according to the article. His medical supply company, which he sold two years ago, is headquartered in Price’s former congressional district. The publication noted that Bardis often used corporate jets in his previous role, which may have made him more comfortable to approve Price’s travel requests. Despite a request, HHS didn’t make Bardis available for comment, Politico reported.
Furthermore, many HHS staffers who have ties to Price are now worried about their positions under a new secretary.
“Many Price allies know they’re vulnerable,” one staffer told Politico. “And the White House liaison [Tim Clark] brought in a lot of people … with little to no federal experience who aren’t quite sure how these transitions of power go.”