Feds Wasted MILLIONS On A Project That Never Happened
The stimulus may be six years old, but the government is still dealing with its fallout. The federal government is now demanding a power company pay back millions of dollars in stimulus funds it got for a project it apparently never did.
North American Power Group was given $7.8 million by the government to research carbon sequestration, which included drilling a deep well in Two Elk, Wyo., to study the geology. To date, no well has been drilled and no jobs have been created, according to WyoFile.com.
Now the federal government is demanding the company pay back $5.7 million of their $7.8 million that NAPG founder Michael Ruffatto paid to an “unstaffed Wyoming land-and-cattle subsidiary” for costs that NAPG could not justify.
WyoFile notes that the cattle subsidiary “billed and received $5,534,604.50 from the government but could produce only $47,602 in allowable charges for what it claimed was “heavy equipment mobilization; drilling pad and mud pit construction; drilling water procurement and layout area preparation.”
“NETL has made a final determination that NAPG (North American Power Group) charged and was paid for unallowable costs totaling $5,719,281.92,” the National Energy Technology Laboratory told Ruffatto in a June 2012 letter.
NETL also noticed that Ruffatto submitted invoices for expenses that occurred in 1994 — more than 15 years before the Obama stimulus program. Federal officials also criticized $q.2 million in payments Ruffatto made to himself and company vice-president Brad Enzi, the son of Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, and other employees with stimulus funds.
Documents obtained by WyoFile found that Ruffatto billed the government “$214.38 an hour as ‘chief investigator’ for the scientific carbon storage research project, claiming that he worked as many as 76 hours a week” adding that in “one month alone — October 2010 — he collected $73,369.52 in salary and benefits.”
NAPG says it only owed the government $2 million, which it has paid back. The company told WyoFile that it was “timely with agreed-upon repayment of $2 million in disallowed items until the agreed-upon schedule was interrupted by the further government inquiry.”
“We have continued to cooperate with the government and look forward to a mutually satisfactory conclusion to this issue,” the company said.
The government, however, disagrees and says NAPG still owes taxpayers $3.7 million for “unallowable” payments made by Ruffatto and other NAPG employees.
But federal officials did not comment on the status of any investigation into Ruffatto’s spending of stimulus dollars, though the Energy Department has said over the past two years it’s been looking into the matter.
“The nature of any federal probe is important because if investigators find evidence of fraud, Ruffatto and his company could be subject to stiffer civil or criminal penalties under federal False Claims Act or other fraud statutes,” WyoFile reports.
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