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Solyndra: Audit finds loan program lacked oversight

By Neela Banerjee, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — An independent audit of the federal loan guarantee initiatives that backed the troubled solar technology company Solyndra failed to turn up the waste and broad incompetence that critics assert riddled the programs.

But the audit showed the laws passed from 2005 to 2009 that established the programs in question at the Energy Department had few provisions for thorough monitoring and oversight of the loan guarantees once they were approved. One program created in 2007 did not “provide any requirements regarding governance and monitoring of loans after closing.”

“Neither the statutes nor the regulations governing the programs specify internal or external oversight or reporting requirements,” the report concluded.

Last October, the White House requested an independent audit of three Energy Department loan programs in order to defuse mounting criticism over the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a maker of innovative solar equipment that received a $535 million loan guarantee in 2009 but filed for bankruptcy in September 2011.

The audit was managed by Herb Allison, the former Treasury official who oversaw the federal bailout program for the financial sector.

The bankruptcy gave rise to allegations that the Obama administration had wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in public money to advance what Republicans say is a failing clean energy agenda. House Republicans have also launched an investigation into whether Solyndra received its guarantee because its main investors are associated with a major Obama contributor, Tulsa businessman George Kaiser.

The White House, Energy Department and Kaiser have denied that he influenced the loan guarantee application, which was submitted under the Bush administration.

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