AURORA | Massive cost overruns at a new veterans hospital outside Denver were caused by repeated changes in the design and a complicated contract process that VA officials didn’t understand, according to an investigation released Thursday.
The half-finished hospital in suburban Aurora is expected to cost up to $1.73 billion, nearly triple the earlier estimates. The Army Corps of Engineers, which investigated at the request of the Veterans Affairs Department, blamed the VA’s management of the project.
The report says the VA failed to stick to one design and adopted a complex contract too late in the process, leading to disputes and conflicting cost estimates.
The report also says the VA didn’t have enough construction management staffers in Denver to handle a project of this scale, and they were overwhelmed trying to make decisions and meet deadlines.
Changes required during construction have taken too long to approve, the report says.
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, who visited the construction site Thursday, said his department accepts the findings and is making changes.
Sloan has said all the top executives who were in charge when the mistakes were made have been demoted or transferred or have retired. He said one internal investigation is complete and another is underway, and anyone found to have had a role in the failures will be disciplined.
Work continues on the hospital, but with a reduced workforce and a slower pace.
The VA is asking Congress for an additional $625 million to finish a scaled-back version, on top of the $1 billion authorized to date. Gibson said he was optimistic a funding deal will be reached before the project hits its current spending cap at the end of the month.
The Corps of Engineers warned that the VA needs to make fundamental changes in the way it handles construction projects or it will suffer similar overruns and delays on future projects.