This post has been updated.
In his first appearance on Capitol Hill since the scandal surrounding the now-defunct solar company Solyndra broke, the federal watchdog who first raised concerns said Wednesday that the Energy Department has struggled to quickly distribute $35.2 billion in economic stimulus funding.
Gregory H. Friedman told a House subcommittee hearing on the Obama administration’s efforts to promote “green jobs” that the department’s stimulus haul eclipsed its annual budget by more than $8 billion and placed strains on federal, state and local officials charged with distributing the funds.
In some cases, state government personnel charged with distributing the federal dollars had been furloughed as part of state budget crunches, Friedman said.
His appearance meant to summarize more than 100 investigations conducted by Friedman’s office into the department’s stimulus spending that have recovered $2.3 million in stimulus fraud and sparked five criminal prosecutions.
In several of his investigations, Friedman has concluded that the political push to quickly create jobs and spur economic development didn’t match up with economic realities on the ground. And while he credits the department for making significant progress in distributing the federal aid, 45 percent of stimulus dollars distributed by Energy still hadn’t been spent by state and local government as of Oct. 22.
Energy Department officials have defended their management of stimulus dollars, noting that a majority of the money has been distributed to recipients on time. But the $535 million government-backed loan given to Solyndra, the now-shuttered solar company, has raised questions about the rush to distribute stimulus dollars and the leadership of Energy Secretary Steven Chu and his top aides.