Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have introduced a bill that works to increase transparency and accountability inside a federal power agency that’s facing concerns over its financial practices.
The bill announced Tuesday would require the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to create a public website containing detailed information about customer rates and agency expenses.
“We need to restore transparency and fiscal responsibility at WAPA and hold those guilty of fraud accountable,” according to a statement from Sen. Flake, who chairs a Senate subcommittee that directly oversees WAPA. “This bill will ensure that WAPA focuses on delivering reliable energy without passing unnecessary costs onto Arizona ratepayers.”
WAPA is a sells power from federal power facilities to utilities and other entities in 15 western states. The federal agency’s reach impacts 40 million people.
As part of the bill’s announcement, the senators specifically cited an ABC15 investigation that that uncovered out-of-control waste, abuse and fraud inside WAPA. Whistleblowers told reporters that top officials were indifferent to improper financial practices and slow or unwilling to fix them.
WAPA has denied those allegations.
““For years, Arizona consumers have been paying the price for rampant waste, fraud and abuse at WAPA in the form of high energy bills,” said Sen. McCain in a prepared statement. “Our legislation would provide Arizona customers with full transparency of how their tax dollars are being spent so we can hold this troubled agency accountable and rein in WAPA's unnecessary and excessive spending.”
WAPA has also drawn criticism over the size of a reserve balance that has topped more than $700 million. The huge sum of money has raised questions about whether the agency has overcharged for power and whether rate decreases should be returned to customers.
The bill would also require WAPA to produce a “detailed accounting” of unobligated balances.
"We have been making incremental improvements to our transparency effort and welcome any initiative that helps us to achieve that goal," said acting WAPA CFO Dennis Sullivan in a statement. "I fully appreciate customer interest in this area and have been proactively working with them to share additional information about WAPA's financials."