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  • U.S. President Donald Trump (R), flanked by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, August 8, 2017

    U.S. President Donald Trump (R), flanked by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, August 8, 2017 | Photo: Reuters

Politico has reported that Price had taken at least two dozen private charter flights since May at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of more than US$400,000.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has resigned after increased pressure by the Trump administration for using expensive private chartered planes for government-related business. 

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In his resignation letter, 62-year old Price wrote, "I regret that the recent events have created a distraction" pointing to his work at the Health and Human Service, HHS.  

Seema Verma, a former health care consultant, who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is one of the contenders for the vacant position. Known to be Mike Pence's protege, she worked extensively on implementing Obamacare.  

In an effort to contain the issue, Price on Thursday said that he would pay for the costs that the government incurred on his behalf over the chartered flights, of about US$52,000 but the amount did not include the travel costs of his staff and family. 

This is not the first time, the former HHS secretary has come under scrutiny over ethical issues. Price's use of private jets costing tens of thousands of taxpayers' dollars for official business was first reported by Politico in September.  

After Price's resignation, Walter Shaub, former director of United States Office of Government Ethics said on Twitter, "Just because something is legal doesn't make it right ... we are public servants." 

In an interview with the Politico, Shaub said, "This wasteful conduct reflects disdain for the ethical principle of treating public service as a public trust." 

"Public office isn’t supposed to come with frivolous perks at taxpayer expense," he added.  

Price's resignation leaves Trump with a second Cabinet position to fill. He has yet to pick a secretary for homeland security after hiring former Secretary John Kelly as his White House chief of staff.

It was the latest blow to the Trump White House, which has struggled to get major legislative achievements passed by Congress and has been embroiled in one controversy after another since Trump took office in January.

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