Shuttered solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra reportedly started dumping money into a shiny new factory with state-of-the-art features soon after they won approval for a massive taxpayer-backed loan.
The claims of "sloppy" spending, from former employees, raise more questions about the company's activities and the government's oversight of it ahead of a hearing Friday on Capitol Hill. Two Solyndra executives plan to appear before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee but plead the Fifth during questioning, offering themselves protection from self-incrimination.
Republicans frustrated by the move say they still have plenty of questions for the company, and they expect somebody to answer them.
The central concern is how a company that presented itself as financially viable ended up collapsing earlier this month after receiving nearly $530 million in government loans.
The Washington Post reported that the company was, as one ex-employee put it, "spending money left and right." According to the article, Solyndra started working on a $344 million factory even as solar panels were piling up in storage.
The former employee told the Post the infusion of government cash "made people sloppy."
The report said the new factory's conference room even had a glass wall built with technology that could conceal those inside if desired. New equipment ended up being sold for a fraction of the purchase price in the wake of the firm's financial collapse.
The company's spending practices, as well as the oversight that allowed for the initial loan to be approved in the first place, will be under scrutiny Friday when the House committee convenes once again to examine the case. The panel is one of several entities conducting probes into the Solyndra loan.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who is looking at the broader issue of the administration's clean-energy investments, suggested the companies can only afford to spend more -- and pay employees more -- because they're subsidized.
"It costs a fortune to get very few jobs," he said.
Administration officials disputed the claim and said the industry is viable.
Solyndra says it is unaware of any wrongdoing by company officials.
A statement earlier this week said the investigation will "clarify the facts surrounding the events leading to the DOE loan guarantee to Solyndra."
Attorneys urged the committee not to read too much into the executives' decision not to testify.
"While I have instructed my client not to testify at the hearing, it would be a mistake to infer anything from this other than that is the act of a prudent lawyer who is newly engaged to represent a witness in ongoing government investigations," one attorney said on behalf of CEO Brian Harrison.
Chief Financial Officer Bill Stover is also expected to attend the hearing but not testify.