WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department’s internal watchdog said Thursday that a nearly $6,000 bottle of Japanese whisky given to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that was reported missing remains unaccounted for.
The department's inspector general also said that the “gift vault,” in which presents given to senior U.S. officials are stored, was found to be in “a state of disarray” when the Biden administration took office in January. It said new safeguards and controls are needed to ensure that gifts to senior U.S. officials are properly accounted for.
In a report, the inspector general said it was unable to locate a $5,800 bottle of 30-year-old Suntory Hibiki whisky that was given to Pompeo by the Japanese government in 2019, along with a 22-karat gold commemorative coin worth $560. The items were reported missing in August in a notice filed in the Federal Register.
At the time, a Pompeo representative said the former secretary knew nothing about the gift or the inspector general’s inquiry.
Later, it emerged that a collection of porcelain and copper vases valued at $20,000 that the U.S. government bought as gifts for leaders planning to attend a Group of Seven summit before it was canceled also were missing. The inspector general reported that those vases, as well as an unspecified number of commemorative G-7 pewter trays, marble trinket boxes and leather portfolios valued at $680 each, had been found in storage.
“OIG located the missing vases (all of which were in storage and for which the Department had never accepted delivery),” it said in the report. “However, OIG was unable to determine what happened to the other items, including the gold coin and the whisky. OIG could not trace the items because of the lack of an inventory system to account for the disposition of items and the fact that there are no security cameras outside the gift vault.”
It said records showed that 77 people had entered the vault 3,051 times between Aug, 3, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021. Many of those people had left the government by the time the inspector general began the investigation and could not be compelled to speak about their actions or access to the vault, the report said.
The inspector general's report recommended that the State Department boost security at the gifts vault and determine whether security cameras should be placed in the facility.
Matthew Lee , The Associated Press