Job overruns on federal projects unacceptable

There are several possible reasons why a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital being built in Aurora, Colo., is being termed the biggest construction boondoggle in the agency’s history. None of them should be acceptable to members of Congress.

Already, the hospital, begun in late 2011, is a year behind schedule and more than $1 billion over budget. When completed, the project is expected to cost about $1.73 billion – about three times initial estimates.

That enormous sum will buy a hospital with just 184 beds.

Here are some possible reasons why the enormous abuse of taxpayers’ checkbook is occurring:

l VA officials decided to build a gold-plated hospital, but intentionally concealed the true cost.

l Contractors low-balled their bids, expecting the agency would go along when the price tag grew.

l Agency bureaucrats were simply incompetent in handling the project, making costly mistakes.

l Plans were changed after construction began (VA officials admit this one, insisting they became aware of different health care needs by veterans).

l Other factors changed after ground was broken (again, the VA says one was higher than expected site acquisition costs).

l Most likely, all of the above.

VA officials should be held accountable for the enormous waste of money that should go to helping veterans with health care problems, of course.

Will that happen? Not if VA history is any guide.

Oh, by the way: Three other VA construction projects, in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando, also are behind schedule and over budget by hundreds of millions of dollars.

editorial@tribtoday.com