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Lawmakers Demand Answers for Project Costs

Monday, September 12, 2016

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The budget-busted Veterans Affairs hospital construction project outside of Denver has once again been thrust into the national spotlight.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs voted Wednesday (Sept.7) to issue a subpoena to the VA, seeking thousands of pages of construction documents related to the $1.7 billion project, according to officials.

In the works for nearly a decade, the project was originally estimated to cost $583 million and was set for completion in February 2014.  

VA Aurora
Photos: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The VA hospital project in Aurora, CO, has seen its costs nearly triple. Under construction since 2009, officials say it will be completed in 2018.

Now, the 11-building, 182-bed Denver VA Medical Replacement Project, the most expensive hospital in the VA’s history, is expected to finish in 2018, at $1.67 billion.

The subpoena issued to the VA also requests documentation related to the cost of expensive artwork and other ornamental furnishings used in hospitals and medical centers across the country.

The VA has until Sept. 28 to respond.

Internal Inquiry

When the cost blunders first came to light, several executives departed from the VA, including the official in charge of nationwide construction. Further, the Army Corps of Engineers took reins of the troubled hospital construction project.

The subpoena seeks supporting documents related to the VA’s internal inquiry into the project. In a press release issued in March, the VA said that “no additional adverse personnel actions will be taken as a result of the Administrative Investigative Board review of the Denver Hospital Replacement project.”

House committee leaders say they’ve been repeatedly denied access to the AIB’s complete findings and supporting documentation.

In an August letter provided to the Washington Free Beacon, the VA maintains it has been “forthcoming and transparent … about the reasons for the project challenges and missteps, the individuals who were responsible for mismanagement, actions we have taken to establish a new leadership and oversight structure, and details about how VA is moving forward to implement lessons learned.”

curtain wall

The subpoena seeks supporting documents related to the VA’s internal inquiry into the project.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Inspector General has yet to complete and release details of its investigation regarding potential wrongdoing on the Denver replacement project.

Some Democrats on the House committee voted against issuing the subpoena, worried that documents could jeopardize agency whistleblowers who have helped officials learn of the scope of the cost overruns, according to the Associated Press.

Art Purchases in Question

The subpoena also seeks answers about the VA’s art purchases since 2010, following reports about $6.4 million being spent on artwork in the Palo Alto health care system alone.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), who chairs the committee, told media outlets that the VA has ignored requests to see art contracts and accused the department of omitting art purchases in documents it has provided to the committee.

“I am confident that we are not receiving the whole picture from the department,” Miller told the Washington Free Beacon.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Good Technical Practice; Government; Government contracts; Health Care/Hospitals; Personnel

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