Congressmen Urge Investigation into $8 Million Solar Project at VA Hospital

April 20, 2015

Two Capitol Hill Republicans are asking the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General to investigate an $8 million solar panel project at a VA hospital in Little Rock, Ark.

Local news outlets reported earlier this month that an $8.2 million solar panel project at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital was approved and nearly completed in 2013, but the panels were never turned on because they were incompatible with the local electric grid. Now some of the panels are being dismantled to make way for a new parking garage, where they will eventually be relocated.

In a letter to the VA IG released Monday, Sen. John Boozman (R., Ark.) and Rep. French Hill (R., Ark.) wrote:

"We have a number of concerns and questions regarding this project," the lawmakers wrote. "And it is essential that we ensure accountability and transparency when utilizing precious taxpayer dollars to support these extensive and costly government projects."

However, the VA says the panels are working. "The North Little Rock solar panels are operational and working well with $107,000 in energy savings through October 2014," VA spokeswoman Jessica Jacobsen said in a statement to Stars and Stripes.

Jacobsen said 95 percent of the project was completed in 2013 and the remaining work "is being delayed due to ongoing contract issues."

Jacobsen said the parking garage projected was approved after the solar panel project had broken ground, and that relocating the panels was included in the parking garage contract.

The VA would not reveal the cost of relocation the panels, saying the amount was "procurement sensitive."