WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman French Hill (AR-02) and Senator John Boozman (AR) sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin asking him to “swiftly resolve” the ongoing solar panel construction delays at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock.
In April of 2015, local news reports uncovered that VA mishandled $8 million in federal grant money to construct solar panels at the VA hospital in Little Rock, only to have them torn down before they were ever activated because they were not compatible with the local electricity grid.
Hill and Boozman called for Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VAIOG) to evaluate the planning process for renewable energy programs, like the solar panels at the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), to ensure these taxpayer-funded projects are able to work once constructed.
The VAOIG report, released last August, revealed that VA’s Green Management Program spent $408 million on solar projects from 2010 through 2015 and highlighted mismanagement and delays in solar projects throughout the country.
The IG report confirmed the construction in Little Rock took four years longer than expected and increased the price tag on the project by $1.5 million. The report anticipated final completion in January of this year but, missing another deadline, VA officials recently indicated April of this year would be the earliest that construction would be finished.
In their letter to Secretary Shulkin, Hill and Boozman wrote:
“Congratulations on your recent confirmation. We stand ready to work tirelessly to insure an effective, accountable, and efficient system at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to best serve our Nation’s heroes.
“In this regard, since April of 2015, we have been trying to work with the VA to resolve the ongoing issues with the solar panel project at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock. Today, we remain concerned regarding the additional work being done on the project, the delay in the operation of these solar panels, and the ongoing increase in the cost of this project for hardworking taxpayers.
“Last August, the VA Office of the Inspector General released a report on the solar panel projects at the VA and noted that the delays at the Little Rock facility had delayed the project by approximately four years from the original completion date and added approximately $1.5 million in the cost of the project. The report also expected that the project would finally be completed in January of 2017; however, January came, and went and the project remains unfinished.
“We have now been made aware that the project will be delayed at least until April of 2017, a new contractor has been hired, and new switches and relays have been required to complete the project. The delay and new additions will undoubtedly raise the price, and we request that you provide our offices with an estimate of these additional costs.
“Further, we request that you work swiftly to resolve any outstanding issues at this project and ensure that the recommendations from the VAOIG report from August are fully implemented to avoid any future similar issues with solar panel or other construction projects at the VA.”