WASHINGTON — Boulder County received $25 million and the Colorado Energy Office $9.6 million from the federal government to help conserve and reduce energy in homes and businesses. But a federal audit found that the agencies mishandled some of the programs, failing to oversee sub-contractors and follow federal rules.
The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Energy criticized the accounting and budget practices of the two agencies.
“We found Colorado and Boulder had not always managed these grants efficiently and effectively,” the report concluded.
An OIG official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter more freely, said department officials concluded the grant to the two Colorado agencies was “one of the risky ones” after assessing it in the previous three years.
The official said the department’s risk assessment was based on a cost-benefit analysis, the state’s experience in the program, and other factors. He declined to say the number of state and localities that the agency audited, although the report includes a list of ten reviews in which states and localities were audited.
Scott Morrissey, the operations and program director for the Colorado Energy Office, said the agency’s agreements with subcontractors were delivery-based.
“We were giving them money for performance, not just for the work they had done,” Morrissey said.
Susie Strife, the sustainability specialist for Boulder County, suggested that the county government has made progress since the audit was conducted last year.
“(It) analyzed information representing one point in time,” Strife said in an interview.
Strife’s comment about the date of the audit could not be confirmed, as the report said the audit of Boulder County was conducted in June 2011 and last February.
Among the audit’s findings:
- Boulder County’s micro loan program for residential building retrofits suffered from weak demand, leading to its termination last May. The county gave out only $290,000 of the $2.3 million. The remaining dollars were given to another program.
- One homeowner in Boulder County received two $1,000 rebates for installing energy-saving devices.
- The Colorado Energy Office paid $2.3 million to deliver outreach strategies and action plans for 19 community energy coordinators in local agencies without requiring them to submit pay stubs or time sheets.
The federal grants were included in the $792 billion stimulus package Congress approved in 2009. Part of a $3.2 billion program to promote energy efficiency and conservation, the dollars were awarded to the Colorado Energy Office in September 2009 and Boulder County in May 2010.
Two or three federal auditors made announced visits to both Colorado agencies in 2011 and 2013, according to an OIG official. The review was released last month.
Its main findings were the two agencies’ failure to require documentation from sub-contractors and to follow federal guidelines.
The report said more than one-third of the rebates to single-family dwellings were unsupported or inaccurate because households could claim several energy rebates while those in apartments and condominiums could claim no more than one rebate. As a result, no inaccurate or unsupported rebates were given to residents of apartments and condominiums.
Officials for both Boulder County and the Colorado Energy Office indicated they agreed with the findings of the audit and complied with its recommendations.
Despite the report’s finding that Boulder County had fallen behind in its goal of retrofitting 6,000 homes by last September, Strife indicated that the government had picked up the pace.
“Boulder County is thrilled to report that we are on track to meet or exceed our programmatic goals of reaching 10,000 homes and 3,000 businesses by Mary 2013 with our Energy Smart program,” Strife said.