Energy Dept. failed to report concerns before green-tech firm filed for bankruptcy

November 7, 2013

The Department of Energy failed to disclose concerns about a green-technology company that won $135 million in federal funding but filed for bankruptcy in September, according to a watchdog report released this week.

DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman noted that the firm, San Francisco-based Ecotality, was still due to receive $26 million from the agency to test electric vehicles.

An electric-vehicle charging station. (Courtesy of Ecotality). An electric-vehicle charging station. (Courtesy of Ecotality).

The report said DOE officials knew in May that Ecotality was not on track to meet an important milestone for installing charging stations, yet they failed to disclose that information for an audit the inspector general’s office released roughly two months later.

“We are deeply concerned because the information directly related to the objective of our audit, to determine whether the Department had effectively awarded and managed funding to Ecotalit,” Friedman said in the latest report.

Energy Department officials told investigators they did not think the information was relevant to their audit, the report said.

DOE awarded Ecotality $100 million in 2009 Recovery Act funding to install charging stations for electric cars, in addition to a combined $35 million from a separate program to help pay for testing vehicles.

The agency has suspended the firm’s Recovery Act funding but not $26 million worth of the awards for vehicle testing.

The inspector general said DOE should determine whether Ecotality’s financial woes will prevent the company from meeting its award obligations and document any agency decisions about continued funding for the the vehicle-testing program.

The department concurred with the recommendations and said it had already initiated some of the actions, according to the report.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.
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