Last year we highlighted a solar panel project at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Little Rock that had gone awry.
You see, the solar panels had been built in 2013 — and then were torn down in 2015 before even being put to use, due to lack of planning.
Last year we didn’t know the full cost to taxpayers for this mismanaged project. However, due to a recent report by the federal government, now we do.
From the Dept. of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s recent report:
The Little Rock VA medical facility did not effectively plan the installation of a solar panel system. The system is not completed and is not generating solar power. The project experienced significant delays and additional contract costs due to disassembly of previously installed solar panel carport structures to accommodate a parking garage. As a result, the solar project is expected to be fully completed in January 2017, over 4 years beyond its original completion date, with unexpected costs of approximately $1.5 million. We reviewed 11 of 15 solar projects awarded from fiscal year (FY) 2010 through FY 2013 that were a work-in-progress as of May 2015. At the completion of our audit work in March 2016, only 2 of 11 solar projects were fully completed. In July 2016, VA informed us that 5 of 11 solar projects were fully completed. This occurred because of planning errors, design changes, a lengthy interconnection process, and contractor delays. As a result, VA did not increase renewable energy for those solar projects in the time frame planned and incurred additional costs through needed contract modifications. We recommended the Interim Assistant Secretary for Management implement additional controls to prevent solar panel conflicts, share best practices for executing timely interconnection agreements, implement power generation monitoring controls, and conduct lessons learned assessments.
So: the solar panel project will be completed over four years after the originally-planned completion date, and it will cost taxpayers an additional $1.5 million over the original $8 million federal grant for the project.
But don’t worry! The bureaucrats who mismanaged this project will get severe punishment like having to “conduct lessons learned assessments.” How harsh!
Rep. French Hill said regarding the report:
The IG report does little to instill confidence in the VA’s ability to effectively manage construction projects. Whether it is a project as complex as hospital construction, or one as simple as properly installing solar panels, VA continues to waste large amounts of taxpayer funds as a result of its own ineptitude. Senator Boozman and I asked the IG to produce this report to determine the efficacy of the solar projects nationwide, we now know that isn’t solely a Little Rock VA problem, which cost taxpayers an additional $1.5 million, but one that has a much larger geographic and fiscal scope than originally believed. We need to increase oversight into all VA construction activities to ensure these types of avoidable failures do not continue in the future.
Sen. John Boozman said:
wI commend the diligent work that the VAOIG’s office put into this report. The clear takeaway is that there is a lack of accountability and oversight at VA when it comes to the Green Management Program. This must change. VA’s refusal to accept the OIG’s recommendation that it conduct the proper assessments necessary to prevent future failures of this magnitude is unacceptable. Steps must be taken to ensure that resources meant to help our veterans are not squandered on wasteful projects. Congressman Hill and I are committed to ensuring that the poor management practices of the VA’s Solar Panel Projects are addressed.
You can read the entire report here.