Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake sent a letter Thursday to the Western Area Power Administration, seeking answers after a series of ABC15 investigative reports revealed out-of-control waste and concerns about the agency’s large reserve fund.
“Your customers and all taxpayers deserve a clear understanding of where their dollars are being sent,” the letter said.
Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) officials did not immediately return a request for comment.
WAPA is a division of the United States Department of Energy that takes power from plants and sells it to wholesale electric utilities, municipalities, tribes and other agencies in 15 western states, including Arizona.
In short, WAPA sells power to the utilities and other entities that sell power to millions of people.
ABC15 obtained hundreds of reports, records and receipts that show out-of-control waste within the agency that was able to persist because of lax or non-existent oversight.
WAPA is also holding $767 million in unobligated funds, raising question about whether the agency has overcharged for power.
Both of Arizona’s senators have been pressing WAPA for answers for more than a year. The Congressional Oversight Committee is also investigating.
Flake is the newly-selected chair of a Senate subcommittee that directly oversees WAPA. He said he will use his position to find what’s been happening in the agency.
“They won’t be able to avoid answering,” Flake said in an interview with ABC15. “We have jurisdiction over WAPA.”
The senators’ letter also raised concerns about WAPA’s slow response to congressional investigators, saying “as we understand WAPA has not fully complied with these requests by the Committee.”
McCain also released a statement to ABC15 about the letter:
“While WAPA's mission is to provide affordable power to all of its customers, the agency has seen its overhead go through the roof in recent years and has unfairly passed on these unnecessary costs to customers throughout Arizona in the form of high monthly energy bills. After Senator Flake and I requested a review of WAPA’s practices, we learned that allegations of waste, fraud and abuse at the agency were rampant. We have been working for months to increase transparency of WAPA’s questionable practices through rigorous oversight and legislation, and sent a letter to WAPA Administrator and CEO Mark Gabriel today asking him to explain how the agency is addressing this wrongdoing. Arizonans deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent, and Senator Flake and I will continue to do everything we can to rein-in in this federal bureaucracy run-amok.”