Washington, Dec 23 : An influential US Senator has demanded a federal investigation into whether Indian-American Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina, exploited taxpayer dollars for political purposes.
A Haley spokesman, however, refuted the charges and termed them as a joke.
Senator Tom Harkin, in a letter to Daniel R Levinson, the inspector general of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, urged to “examine whether the state of South Carolina met the requirements of federal law in spending its exchange planning grant and whether that grant should be returned to the federal government in full.”
“Over the last several weeks, evidence has come to my attention that raises serious concerns about whether the state of South Carolina made improper use of taxpayer funds provided under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA),” Harkin said in his letter, which was released to the press yesterday.
The Senator cited a report last week from a local US daily that Haley told the South Carolina Health Planning Committee in an email that the committee was to figure out a way to opt out of a requirement in the new federal health care law requiring states to set up health insurance exchanges.
The first Indian American women governor of a US State, Haley established the committee with the help of a USD 1 million federal grant that was designed to help states figure out how to implement the new health care reforms. The state has so far spent about USD 109,000 of that money, Harkin said.
“It was certainly not the intent for those taxpayer funds to be distributed for a predetermined and meaningless outcome. Spending taxpayer funds to construct an ideologically-motivated façade not only violates Congress' intent, but also the public's trust in government,” he said.
Terming Harkin's letter “a joke”, a spokesman of Haley said the South Carolina Governor has long been on record opposing Obamacare and its exchanges, and she remains committed to keeping them out of South Carolina.
“We're glad that the committee independently concluded that these exchanges should be rejected,” Godfrey told The State newspaper.
“I suggest the liberal senator for Iowa is better off investigating how pro-Obamacare governors are wasting tens of millions of tax dollars studying how to implement a fatally flawed and unconstitutional law that will hopefully soon be struck down by the Supreme Court. South Carolina did the right thing,” Godfrey was quoted as saying.