- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

DENVER (AP) - U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner asked for more congressional oversight of the construction of Denver’s troubled new veterans hospital on Thursday to ensure it’s completed as soon as possible without wasting tax dollars.

In a letter sent to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Colorado’s senators asked for several “accountability measures,” including having officials submit monthly and quarterly spending and construction reports to Congress and having the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office or another independent agency to review the final cost and construction schedule. They also want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be designated as the construction agent as well as a review of the Department of Veteran Affairs’ guidelines for dealing with construction changes to see how they compare with those used in the private sector.

“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,” they said.

The request comes nearly two weeks after the committee held a field hearing near the construction site of the half-finished hospital, which is now expected to cost $1.73 billion. That’s nearly triple the estimate the VA gave last year.

It also follows a report by The Denver Post (https://dpo.st/1csbEP5) that the VA office of inspector general turned down requests from both Bennet and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman to investigate the project, citing a legal battle between the prime contractor, Kiewit-Turner, and the VA.

The Post reported Thursday that VA officials knew about management problems with the hospital project as early as May 2011 - seven months before construction started - but no changes were made for two years.

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