The Department of Veterans Affairs admitted Thursday that a new VA hospital planned for Denver, Colorado, that was originally estimated to cost $328 million will now cost at least $1.73 billion to complete.
That's more than five times the original estimate.
The VA made this admission at a House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing Thursday morning. VA Office of Accountability Review Director Meghan Flanz acknowledged the huge cost overrun while discussing legislation that would authorize up to $1.1 billion to be spent on the hospital, and said that while the VA welcomes that increase, it wouldn't be enough.
"VA estimates that the final cost of the project will total $1.73 billion, which is larger than the amount that would be authorized," she said. "Therefore, we would like to work with the committee to ensure any enacted authorization address the full estimated cost of the project."
Her request is essentially that Congress authorize another $630 million to complete the project, nearly twice as much as the original estimated cost. But she said the VA is working as hard as it can to finish the job "at the best value to taxpayers."
"VA remains committed to completing the Aurora project for our veterans as soon as practical, at the best value to taxpayers, given where we are today," she said.
Back in 2013, the Government Accountability Office estimated that the project would cost $800 million, more than twice the starting estimate. It also said it should be completed by April of this year, but the project will now miss that target as well.
The VA's stunning new admission came just a day after the chairman of the committee, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Va.), called for the resignation of two top officials in charge of VA construction. Miller said Glenn Haggstrom of the VA's Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction, and Stella Fiotes of the VA's Office of Construction and Facilities Management, both need to go.
"No reasonable person could conclude that [they] are doing a good job," Miller said.
Haggstrom told Miller's committee a year ago that top VA officials were briefed every month about the status of the Denver hospital, which could raise questions about what those briefings were about, and why the VA hasn't been more on top of the problem.
Flanz testified in a hearing aimed at discussing several VA oversight bills, including two bills meant to protect whistleblowers. But other than supporting the bill to get the VA more money for the Denver hospital, Flanz said the VA opposes most of the other oversight bills.
She said one of those oversight bills would be "unworkable." She said another bill to protect information security at the VA would "impede the flexibility" of the VA to run its own system.