03/21/2018 08:00 PM EDT
The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviewed potential mismanagement in the planning and oversight of two construction projects—a new Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) and an expanded Operating Room (OR) Suite—at the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System (OKCVAHCS). The projects were scheduled for completion in February 2015 and September 2016, respectively, for a combined cost of about $18 million. The OIG concluded Veterans Integrated Service Network 16 and OKCVAHCS officials mismanaged both projects, which are behind schedule. As of January 2018, the SICU project was about 60–65 percent complete; however, the construction contractor had been paid about 93 percent of the construction portion of the project’s funds. Inadequate oversight of the project by OKCVAHCS officials contributed to widespread workmanship deficiencies. The final cost and completion date of the SICU project are unknown and at least partially dependent on the outcome of legal action initiated by the construction contractor in March 2017. The decision by OKCVAHCS officials to start the OR project prematurely resulted in conflicts between contractors working on the projects simultaneously in overlapping space. As a result, the OR project was suspended pending completion of the SICU project. Costs associated with the OR project continue to accumulate because of the delay. In May 2017, an Administrative Investigative Board convened by VA reported that an Anti-deficiency Act violation occurred because OKCVAHCS staff had removed an elevator from the SICU project and added it into the design of the OR project. This change was intended to keep the SICU project classified as “minor construction,” which is a construction project that costs under $10 million. The OIG recommended sealing SICU construction areas, implementing procedures to strengthen oversight of construction projects and recommendations by technical experts, and considering administrative action for key responsible officials.