The Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday got the go-ahead to add a construction expert to a panel investigating a $1 billion cost overrun at a hospital in Aurora, CO.
The VA had come under criticism for conducting the investigation without the input of Joanna Krause, the head of the medical facilities design office at the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command Headquarters. She was the only construction specialist tapped for the administrative investigation board, but her appointment was not approved by the Navy until yesterday, The Denver Post reported.
The board is to report to Congress about why construction of the unfinished medical center, which had an initial budget of $604 million, wound up with an estimated cost of $1.73 billion.
The Denver Post and others reported on Wednesday that internal VA emails revealed Krause had not taken part in the investigation, despite the department's assurances to Congress that a construction expert would be on board.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, suggested the appointment’s approval on Thursday was the result of those reports, and said it is “unfortunate that it often takes negative press coverage or congressional scrutiny just to get this administration to take VA's problems seriously," The Denver Post reported.
VA officials proposed a plan last week to a congressional Committee on Veterans Affairs to tap a $5 billion healthcare fund to pay for the cost overrun, just weeks after the VA’s top construction official was pushed into retirement and four others were demoted or transferred once the problem was exposed.