The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Inspector general released a report this week examining the oversight of the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy cooperative agreement with the Texas Clean Energy Project. The project was a stimulus grant project that provided $450 million in federal support for a $1.7 billion project to deploy advanced clean coal technology.
The report identified $38 million in expenditures that were approved without adequate detail or information to track and evaluate progress. The report also identified millions in unallowable costs, such as $1.2 million spent on lobbying Congress to make changes to the tax code favorable to the company.
The report also found $1.3 million in charges for questionable or prohibited travel expenses. This includes $650,000 “for items such as spa service, alcohol, first-class travel, limousine services, receipts in foreign currency, and business meals that were prohibited or not fully substantiated.” Another $325,000 was used on “catering and banquet room rental expenses, catering on a private jet, and travel expenses to attend a charity event.” The IG stated that because “these events appeared to be social in nature and were not necessary for contract performance, we consider them questionable.” No kidding!
Another highlight from the report is when the project’s travel budget jumped from $713,000 to $3 million without explanation.
The project was cancelled in 2016 and the company has since gone bankrupt – leading a DOE official to make the assessment that “it seems highly unlikely that the company will have the financial resources to settle any unallowable assessments.”
$650,000 in DOE funds were spent “for items such as spa service, alcohol, first-class travel, limousine services, receipts in foreign currency, and business meals that were prohibited or not fully substantiated."