Internal VA investigation finds “gross mismanagement” of Colorado hospital project

Gross mismanagement, delays and lax oversight by the Veterans Affairs Department added years and hundreds of millions of dollars to the project.

By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

Update: Two members of Congress say prosecutors should launch a perjury investigation of a former Veterans Affairs Department over his testimony about cost overruns at a Denver-area VA hospital.

Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado said Wednesday the Justice Department should investigate Glenn Haggstrom’s statements to Congress in 2013 and 2014.

Haggstrom didn’t immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

Gross mismanagement, delays and lax oversight by the Veterans Affairs Department added years and hundreds of millions of dollars to complete a new Denver-area VA hospital, federal investigators said Wednesday.

A report from the department’s internal watchdog also said a former senior VA official, Glenn Haggstrom, knew the project was veering toward huge cost overruns but didn’t tell lawmakers that when he testified before Congress in 2013 and 2014.

No phone number could be found for Haggstrom, who was the department’s top official in charge of construction projects nationwide when the hospital was being designed and built.

He retired in 2015, a day after he was interviewed under oath about the Denver hospital’s problems, VA officials have said.

The inspector general’s report did not say whether the Justice Department should investigate whether any laws were broken, although Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, specifically asked for that.

Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he will ask the Justice Department to look into criminal charges.

Sloan Gibson, deputy secretary of veterans affairs, said the department has taken responsibility for the problems and has made changes.

The inspector general’s report repeated some conclusions from earlier investigations but is the most scathing account of the project to date.

It accused senior VA leaders of making poor business decisions, delaying decisions on construction changes by up to three years and assigning far too few engineers and project managers.

The hospital, now under construction in suburban Aurora, is expected to cost around $1.7 billion, nearly triple the 2014 estimate. It’s expected to be complete in 2018.