KATV Ch. 7’s Elicia Dover reports:
Two lawmakers are calling for the inspector general of the VA to conduct an investigation into the solar panel project at the Little Rock VA Hospital, following a Channel 7 News report.
On Friday Congressman French Hill and Sen. John Boozman spoke with Channel 7 News, saying that they still had questions that need to be answered.
The solar panels were installed two years ago and have not been turned on since the installation. Meanwhile, solar panels at the North Little Rock VA have been up and running, saving the VA more than $100,000 in utility costs since being installed.
Last week, Channel 7 News shot video of some of the panels at the Little Rock VA being torn down. VA officials said the panels were being torn down for the construction of a parking garage and would eventually be re-installed at the top of that parking garage.
“We’ve got millions of dollars for this kind of project, but we don’t have the money to pay our professionals at the VA. We don’t have the money to care for our inpatient and our outpatient veterans from all of our conflicts and that just burns up the American tax payer when they see their money mismanaged. We’re not going to say the word ‘wasted’ per say, but mismanaged. Like Sen. Boozman, sure this could be a legitimate strategic energy advantage for our veteran’s administration, but not when it’s mismanaged,” said Rep. Hill.
VA engineers sat down with Channel 7 News on Thursday and said the parking garage project and the solar panel project were approved six months apart. The VA’s energy manager said they did not go back for a redesign of the project to include the parking garage.
“You’d have to go back and take another look at the overall cost benefit of having to redo that, versus just going ahead with what we’ve got and understand that at some point they’re going to have to be relocated,” Risner said.
Even though Risner said “the short answer is yes,” there was a way the panels could have simply not been built, it was a group decision to go ahead and build the panels.
“I know that decision was made locally and it was not made by just one person, but it was a team that took a look at this and we made the decision to move forward,” Risner said.
On Friday, Sen. Boozman said he would like answers on how different projects going on at the VA could communicate.
“That’s a real concern. Again, coming from business as does Congressman Hill, the reaction is how do you do these things? And that’s what drives the people of America crazy. And that’s why they’re losing faith in their institutions so these are the answers we need to get to the bottom of. It’s why we need to get the IG, we need to get the head of the VA to provide us the answers and then go from there,” Boozman said.
UPDATE: KATV’s Elicia Dover joined Talk Business & Politics on Sunday to discuss the latest developments related to the VA Hospital controversy.