Auditors question $175 million in unresolved Yucca Mountain costs

WASHINGTON — As the Department of Energy seeks to close its books on the Yucca Mountain program, auditors on Monday said they identified more than $175 million in unresolved charges claimed by contractors.

DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman said some of the cost issues date back to 2002, a year after Bechtel SAIC Corp. took over as managing contractor at the nuclear waste site. The Bechtel SAIC management contract expired in March 2009. DOE switched operators then to USA Repository Services.

Now that DOE is moving quickly to terminate the Nevada project, Friedman urged settlement of all the financial loose ends on the $10 billion endeavor.

“The department needs to ensure that the close out process is managed effectively and that all disallowed costs are settled and funds recouped; the remaining required audits of costs incurred are completed, and that all excess funds are de-obligated,” the inspector general said in a companion report on July 23.

It was not the first time the inspector general had questioned financial management on the Yucca project. DOE is awaiting completion of three Defense Department audits on allowable charges raised by federal inspectors in 2005.

In response to the inspector general’s latest report, DOE said it was reviewing contracts and would seek reimbursement on whatever costs are disallowed.

In the new report, inspectors said $18.8 million of submitted charges from Bechtel SAIC were questioned by the firm’s own auditors but never were resolved with DOE. They included unsupported labor and travel expenses, improper automobile lease payments and the payment of an employee’s apartment lease cancellation fee . Bechtel SAIC did not audit about $160 million in charges submitted by subcontractors, inspectors said. They identified 23 subcontracts for fiscal years 2004 through 2009 for which they could find no evidence of audit.

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