The Justice Department is considering if they should investigate allegations that Veterans Affairs Department executives lied to Congress to conceal massive cost overruns at a $1.7 billion VA hospital under construction outside Denver.
The FBI’s Washington field office is reviewing the allegations, the Justice Department said inside a letter to Congress. The letter was dated Dec. 9 making it public Tuesday.
The FBI is a component in the Justice Department.
Lawmakers accuse VA executives of lying after they testified ahead of the House Veterans Affairs Committee in 2013 and 2014 regarding the cost with the hospital in suburban Aurora. The current projected price tag is practically triple the 2014 estimate.
The VA declined to discuss the lawmakers’ allegations. In a written statement, the department stated it has acknowledged mistakes around the project generating changes to its construction practices.
A bipartisan group of 21 lawmakers on the Veterans Affairs Committee called for an investigation in September. The request came following the VA’s internal watchdog office said Glenn Haggstrom, formerly the department’s top official in charge of construction projects, knew a healthcare facility cost was soaring but didn’t tell Congress.
The lawmakers also asked the Justice Department to look into congressional testimony by Stella Fiotes, director in the VA’s Office of Construction and Facilities Management.
Neither Haggstrom nor Fiotes immediately return phone messages Tuesday.
Haggstrom and Fiotes told the committee that totally free overruns were expected and that the project will be finished at or near its budget of about $604 million, as outlined by transcribed excerpts from the committee.
Haggstrom retired in 2015, one day after he was questioned by VA officials in what went wrong, department officials have said.
Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said the Justice Department should investigate the two officials’ testimony.
“This case can be a slam dunk, and it is imperative for Department of Justice officials to make sure justice is served,” Miller said in a written statement.
“It can be an absolute fact that numerous VA officials repeatedly misled Congress regarding cost overruns,” he was quoted saying.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., an associate in the committee, also said the FBI should investigate.
“If they don’t, there aren’t consequences for federal officials with the executive branch to lie once they’re under oath, then Congress cannot exercise its oversight,” he said.
Investigations into a medical facility project have said mismanagement, delays and lax oversight with the VA added poisonous of dollars towards the cost and delayed it by years.
Construction about the 184-bed facility is expected to be carried out January 2018. It will replace an ageing, overcrowded facility still used in Denver.