How Not to Build a VA Hospital

Next with Kyle Clark. 9/21/2016

They knew it. The VA knew the shiny new Aurora hospital couldn't be built on budget.

But they kept building. Kept spending.

That's what the VA's inspector general announced in a report on Wednesday. Specifically, federal investigators say "gross mismanagement," delays and lax oversight by the Department of Veterans Affairs added hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of the new VA hospital and delayed it by years.

The report from the department's internal watchdog also said a former senior VA official, Glenn Haggstrom, knew the project was veering toward huge cost overruns but didn't tell lawmakers that when he testified before Congress in 2013 and 2014.

No phone number could be found for Haggstrom. He retired in 2015.

This report does repeat some conclusions from earlier investigations but is the most scathing account of the project to date.

It might as well be titled “How Not to Build a Hospital.”

Bad design.

Bad planning.

Bad handling of the contract and design changes.

A blueprint for bungling a project and doubling its cost to more than $1.6 billion.

A project that called for mountain views and adding an expensive, underground parking garage to do it.

Now the question is whether this was a crime? The government report is silent on that. It makes no mention of a criminal investigation. We talked to Republican Senator Mike Coffman of Aurora, who specifically asked for that criminal referral for the VA hospital debacle:

“A billion dollars was wasted. A billion dollars of taxpayers’ money was wasted. I just don’t know how we move forward – how this organization moves forward – an organization that, I believe, is mired in bureaucratic incompetence and corruption, without holding people accountable. I think it sets a bad precedent.”

As Congressman Coffman has criticized the VA - his critics say he had an oversight role in Congress and should have helped avoid this disaster. He told me Next on 9NEWS that he met his oversight role by pressing the VA, but that “they were lying to me.”

That's where we start to talk about a crime.

Kyle and 9NEWS political guy Brandon Rittiman broke down the report, and how it addresses the VA’s in competence. Check it out in the video above.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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