Feds ignore rules and use stimulus cash to buy Chinese solar panels
Government officials blame unfair competition from China for the collapse of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, but such concerns didn’t stop the federal government from breaking stimulus program rules to use Chinese solar panels atop a federal building housing the offices of a senator, congressman and several agencies.
Even the contractor questioned whether Chinese-made panels could be used under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus program that mandated use of U.S.-made products. His query in early 2010 was dismissed and the General Services Administration moved forward with using the Chinese panels on the Sen. Paul Simon Federal Building in Carbondale, Ill., records show.
Questions about the panels, which were assembled overseas, were raised in a four-page advisory memo sent by the inspector general to the GSA in the summer of 2011, but the findings take on added significance as government officials increasingly place blame on Chinese subsidies for troubles in the U.S. solar market.
The memo highlighting the expenditures from the inspector general was sent to two GSA officials. The first was Robert Peck, the former Public Buildings Service commissioner who was one of several executives ousted earlier this year when details surfaced about the GSA’s lavish Las Vegas conference in 2010.
The second official to receive the memo, Steven J. Kempf, was named commissioner for the GSA’s federal acquisition service in 2010, but he took a two-month medical leave earlier this summer. He came under scrutiny after recent revelations about another roughly quarter-million-dollar employee awards ceremony also held in 2010.