American consumers, businesses, and federal agencies rely on the Energy Star program to identify products that decrease greenhouse emissions and lower energy costs. In addition, the federal government and various states offer tax credits and other incentives to encourage the use of energy-efficient products including Energy Star products. Specifically, approximately $300 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be used for state rebate programs on energy-efficient products. The Energy Star program, which began in 1992, is overseen jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Given the millions of dollars allocated to encourage use of Energy Star products and concerns that the Energy Star program is vulnerable to fraud and abuse, GAO was asked to conduct proactive testing to (1) obtain Energy Star partnership status for bogus companies and (2) submit fictitious products for Energy Star certification. To perform this investigation, GAO used four bogus manufacturing firms and fictitious individuals to apply for Energy Star partnership and submitted 20 fictitious products with fake energy-savings claims for Energy Star certification. GAO also reviewed program documents and interviewed agency officials and officials from agency Inspector General (IG) offices.
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