Not just TVA management at fault

Not just TVA management at fault
February 6, 2011

I was wondering where all the checks and balances of the organization known as the TVA Board has been for months. Rarely do we hear a word from them in defense of the tumultuous criticism of the TVA and its management, hardly a peep from nine of them and now not from the eight remaining board members either individually or as a group.

It must be an uneasy feeling of management for their own board’s seeming failure to back up management’s decisions. Pontificating is a luxury the board does not have but they are not even doing that. After all, management supposedly is carrying out the policy directives of the TVA Board. Doesn’t the board follow up on its own mandates to management?

In the Board’s defense, they cannot be outspoken about the many miscues of their own appointed management without having them reflect on their own misjudgments.

Some examples of an absentee board: Where was the board in defense of a multi-million dollar re-organization scheme? This reorganization, the last of a string of mis-planned strategies, was supposed to prevent debacles such as the Kingston disaster in 2008. Obviously it has not worked in assuring things like the Watts Bar nuclear reactor “firing” of its chief wouldn’t happen. But it did; and TVA management knew for many months about the problem but procrastinated until an outside agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, pointed out that delays were occurring in the construction phase that would seriously push back the completion date of Watts Bar Unit 2.

That is not management, that is dilatory management prodded to action.

TVA made worldwide news when the board approved a $3.6 million payday for CEO Tom Kilgore who then purportedly became the highest paid federal employee ever. It’s true that it may be hard to explain that board action in light of a stagnant economy where everyone is expected to do some belt tightening. TVA has gone in the opposite direction obligating ratepayers to millions of dollars of contracted out power suppliers, some from as far away as North Dakota and many in between. This in itself, although apparently authorized by the board or at least condoned by it, is outrageous. I would like to see the first word in the TVA Act that would permit such action. I’ve looked, can’t find even a rationalization to do it.

And where has the TVA Office of Inspector General been during these uncertain times? Ducking for cover, apparently. And that is a normal reflex when the one you are inspecting pays your salary. The OIG is supposed to be an independent, ethical watchdog to be sure TVA does things right but that charge is compromised and the TVA OIG apparently is reluctant to bite the hand that feeds it.

It goes deeper. The TVA OIG has been a party to defending the TVA to an outside certifying agency, the Center for Resource Solutions, by itself certifying TVA’s Green Power Switch program under misleading circumstances. Through the TVA FOIA I have received a partial disclosure of TVA’s Green Power Switch finances, more is to be revealed. It has taken many months to get to this point when a response, according to the FOIA law itself, should not take more than 20 days.

In a separate FOIA request, I have asked that the TVA FOIA provide copies of correspondences between the TVA OIG and the CRS which established the basis for the “Green e” certification of the TVA which includes the Green Power Switch program. There seems to be some dots missing which lead to a misrepresentation by the TVA that moneys donated for imaginary “blocks” of electricity go toward so-called green projects or programs. This is not the case; TVA will only admit that those donations are dumped into the “mix” of all TVA programs without designation.

Where are the decisions from the TVA Board or management to cut TVA costs across the board? There are none. TVA is headed, apparently with board approval, in the opposite direction of not only the realities of the time but in contradiction of sane financial policies which state that you cannot borrow and spend more money than you take in.

TVA’s actions in this regard probably are forcing a showdown of who really is in charge, TVA’s dominate rule over 9 million people or the people themselves. Surely the seven states in TVA’s territory have abrogated their sovereignty by permitting TVA to continue in their jurisdictions.

The Tennessee Valley Authority through its appointed Board of Directors undoubtedly takes its direction from the one who appointed them, the president of the United States. It does not seem that the TVA has veered very far from the president’s desire to spend more, borrow more and to forget the debt.

What about the ratepayers? It looks like they will be left holding the bag full of TVA’s spendthrift follies.

Ernest Norsworthy

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