Veterans Affairs Construction Chief Retires

26 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A top VA official just resigned — but wasn’t fired — over ‘unacceptable’ construction cost overruns.

DENVER (AP) — The top VA official in charge of construction nationwide retired Wednesday amid an internal investigation of delays and massive cost overruns at the Denver veterans hospital, the agency said. A senior Department of Veterans Affairs official who oversaw construction projects that have seen significant cost overruns and delays has resigned, according to the VA. Glenn Haggstrom, principal executive director of the Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction (OALC), is no longer an employee of VA, a VA statement released Wednesday evening said. But he wasn’t fired, a fact that was already drawing criticism from a Congress that believes the VA continues to be way too soft on corrupt and inept officials.

The VA said last week that the new Denver facility would cost $1.72 billion, more than twice the estimated cost at the time the first contracts were awarded in 2010. Haggstrom “retired” from federal service in the “midst of an investigation, initiated by VA, into delays and cost overruns associated with the design and construction of the medical center in Aurora,” the statement said. “Haggstrom had recently been relieved of any decision-making,” the statement said.

The VA called the situation with its Aurora hospital “unacceptable.” But Haggstrom is still entitled by law to apply for federal retirement benefits, officials there said. After recent reports that the VA hospital’s cost would surge by another $900 million, calls for the firing of Haggstrom and other VA officials came from VA house committee chair Rep. Last year, the department was harshly criticized after whistleblower reports of veterans dying while on appointment schedules at VA hospitals and falsified records to cover up the long wait times. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called the project a “disaster,” and said he was angered that Haggstrom will receive a pension. “What’s most disappointing about this situation, however, is that Haggstrom left on his own terms – with a lifetime pension – even though any reasonable person would conclude that he should have been fired years ago,” Miller said. “VA’s entire construction program is a disaster and has been for years. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) in a written statement. “Everyone knew back in April 2013 that VA executives were incompetently managing this project.” Colorado’s members of Congress are trying to hatch a plan to save the project, but options to scale back the overall cost are limited because the footprint of the hospital complex has already been built.

More housecleaning will surely be needed if the department is to ever get its construction affairs in order.” The VA’s ability to swiftly fire employees for wrongdoing has been a controversial issue, and VA officials say they can’t fire as quickly as they would like. The contract in use was a new one, used for the first time on this project, that allowed for construction to proceed even as the final design of the facility was unsettled. Mike Coffman (R – Aurora), who released a statement saying Haggstrom would be stepping down, said the total overruns for the four hospital projects is more than $2 billion. “We’ve called for the VA to hold those responsible for the years of gross mismanagement of the new regional hospital accountable and we are glad to see the VA finally doing so. In December, federal judges ruled in favor of Kiewit-Turner and the contractor legally walked out on the job, only returning after the VA paid the company $157 million in costs already owed on the project and agreed to have the U.S.

The project includes multiple contracts for different phases, including clearing the site, remodeling an existing building into a clinic and building the main hospital.

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