A long forgotten American corruption saga has come to a whimpering end. The inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development has found that there was NOT any misconduct in Secretary Ben Carson’s purchase of a $31,000 dining set for his office in late 2017.
In a copy of the 14-page report obtained by The Washington Post, the initial purchase order was initiated by HUD officials. “We found no evidence indicating that either Secretary or Mrs. Carson exerted improper influence on any departmental employee in connection with the procurement,” the report about the year-long investigation read, according to The Washington Post.
Congress must approve all purchases over $5,000, but apparently staffers forgot to notify Congress of this $31,561 purchase to replace 30-year-old furniture in Carson’s office suite. When he was told about the funds to refurnish his office, Carson deferred to his wife, Candy Carson, to make the selection. (The Washington Post reported that she was not interviewed by the inspector general’s office.)
Basically, the system failed when Carson almost purchases the $31,000 dining room set, according to the inspector general. From The Washington Post:
“Given that the plain language of governing appropriations law expressly prohibits obligating in excess of $5,000 to purchase ‘furniture’ for use in the ‘suite of offices’” controlled by the department head, the report said, “we believe that department officials involved in this process should have been aware that notification to Congress was required here. The fact that evidently no one involved in this procurement had such awareness indicates a systemic failure.”
Does the man at the top of the system that’s systemically failing by indicating “a systemic failure” have any culpability? Guess not.
When the dining room’s price was made public by The New York Times at the end of February 2018, Carson said he would be cancelling the order. “I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered,” Carson said in a written statement to CNN (that was given to the network by Armstrong Williams, a non-government employee at the time). “I have requested that the order be canceled. We will find another solution for the furniture replacement.”