Harris Reiterates Call for Transparency in DOE Vehicle Spending

May 18, 2012

Washington D.C. - Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) today sent a letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu regarding the Administration’s management and oversight of several billion dollars in advanced vehicle technology spending.  The letter follows an earlier March 26 letter seeking information regarding the Obama Administration’s record spending on electric cars and other alternative vehicles.  The Administration responded to Harris’s original letter on May 1st, but multiple responses were incomplete and several requests included in the original letter were outright ignored.

In the letter, Harris said DOE’s “apparent refusal to provide basic and straightforward information to Congress regarding billions of dollars in vehicle technology spending is disturbing, particularly in light of President Obama’s oft-touted claim that his Administration is the ‘most open and transparent in history.’” 

The letter reiterates Harris’s earlier call on DOE to provide documents regarding over $126 million in funding provided to Ecotality, Incorporated.  A March 22nd report by CBS News revealed that Ecotality is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for insider trading.  Beginning with $100 million in Stimulus funding in 2009, DOE awarded Ecotality money to install electric vehicle chargers across the United States, less than half of which have been installed to-date.  According to CBS News, DOE continued to provide the company follow-on funding nearly a year after the SEC first issued a subpoena to the company.  Harris’s letter requests detailed information regarding the Ecotality project, including communication between the company and DOE in the weeks surrounding its initial award and follow-on funding.

Additionally, the letter notes a report released last week by DOE’s Office of Inspector General (IG) raising new concerns regarding the Agency’s stewardship of tax dollars dedicated to vehicle technology spending.  The IG found that DOE’s Transportation Electrification Program, which funds vehicle charging stations and infrastructure such as those administered by Ecotality, “has faced challenges with ensuring adequate oversight of the financial condition of grant recipients.”  Specifically, the report found DOE did not “ensure recipients had completed independent audits as required by Federal regulations” nor did it request or review “cost reports to determine the allowability of costs as required by Federal regulations.”  Harris’s letter asks DOE for additional information regarding cost reports and financial audits associated with the program.