Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner today urged the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee to apply accountability measures to the ongoing construction of the Denver Replacement Medical Center. The senators offered specific proposals to ensure that this and future VA construction projects are completed with an appropriate level of Congressional oversight.
In a letter to Chairman Johnny Isakson and Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal, the senators wrote, "...rigorous accountability measures must be put in place on the Denver Replacement Medical Center to ensure that Congress has more information and increased oversight of the project. These accountability measures must also ensure that construction is completed in the most timely manner possible and that precious taxpayer dollars are protected."
The appeal to the Veterans Committee follows a field hearing that was held in Aurora last month. Bennet and Gardner, along with the support of Colorado's House delegation, invited the committee to Colorado to see firsthand the construction site and to hear from Colorado veterans and local officials about the VA's mismanagement of this project.
Construction of the hospital was briefly halted in December following a ruling against the VA by the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals that allowed Kiewit Turner to end its contract to build the hospital. Shortly after, a temporary agreement was struck between the VA and Kiewit Turner to resume construction. However, new cost estimates show that additional resources will be needed to complete construction.
Full Text of the Letter:
May 7, 2015
Dear Chairman Isakson and Ranking Member Blumenthal:
Thank you for holding the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Field Hearing on the Denver Replacement Medical Center on April 24, 2015 in Aurora, Colorado. Your commitment to the completion of the medical center demonstrates your dedication to veterans in Colorado and across the country. To be clear, we share your intense frustration with the way the Veterans Administration has managed construction of the medical center, but stand ready to work with you to ensure appropriate steps are taken so a disaster like this never happens again.
Moving forward, rigorous accountability measures must be put in place on the Denver Replacement Medical Center to ensure that Congress has more information and increased oversight of the project. These accountability measures must also ensure that construction is completed in the most timely manner possible and that precious taxpayer dollars are protected. These accountability measures should include:
· Designation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the construction agent on the project moving forward;
· A requirement for monthly submission of the construction calendars to the relevant congressional committees (amount of money spent, amount of money remaining);
· A requirement for monthly or quarterly execution reports from the project manager to the relevant congressional committees;
· A review of the final cost and the schedule for the project by the GAO or another independent entity;
· An independent review of the Department of Veterans Affairs' guidelines for processing change orders as compared to private sector best practices
We look forward to working with the committee to increase accountability on the Denver project so that veterans across the Rocky Mountain region have access to the world-class medical facility they deserve. Our veterans and American taxpayers deserve nothing less than rigorous oversight.
Michael F. Bennet
United States Senator
United States Senator
# # #