GAO: 8 CVC deadlines missed

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) official told Senate appropriators yesterday that the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) Sequence 2 contractor failed to meet several crucial deadlines.

Bernie Ungar, the GAO’s director of physical infrastructure issues, testified that Manhattan Construction Co. has met only three of the 11 “significant milestones” that were to be completed by yesterday’s hearing date.

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Architect of the Capitol Hantman


According to the Architect of the Capitol’s Office (AoC), the eight tasks were uncompleted because of a number of factors, such as “unforeseen site conditions, a design problem and delays in certain masonry work.”

“We think that [the] schedule is the most significant issue” facing the CVC, Ungar told the Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, adding that the AoC needs to develop a “good, realistic schedule.”

Of the three tasks that were completed on time, only one, the masonry wall work on the lower east level of the congressional auditorium, was completed early.

Four of the eight uncompleted projects, including work on the utility tunnel and the Great Hall, are considered critical on the construction schedule. One of the projects, the utility tunnel, is five months behind schedule.

In addition to the unfinished projects, another 11 projects are scheduled for completion before July 31.

In response to questions about the schedule by Subcommittee Chairman Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), CVC project manager Bob Hixon assured him that, although the project is slightly off schedule, the AoC is determined to make up the time and complete the CVC by September 2006.

“The September date that we are talking about is not artificially created,” Hixton said.

However, Ungar reiterated the GAO’s belief that the project would not be completed by the AoC’s scheduled date but would be finished between December 2006 and March 2007, “largely because of past problems.”

The GAO praised the AoC for meeting with its contractors to conduct “monthly schedule reviews” in accordance with a new “systematic process for tracking, analyzing and documenting schedule process.”

Other GAO recommendations included the development of “risk-mitigation plans” as well as a “master schedule” to help coordinate construction activities with those that involve operating the facility. They estimated the cost of the 580,000-square-foot facility will range from $522 million to $559 million. The cost of the original project, which has changed in scope and size, was $265 million.

Hixon told appropriators that the AoC’s $36.9 million budget request for fiscal year 2006 would be sufficient to complete construction on the project. But Ungar disagreed with Hixon’s assessment and said the CVC would eventually need additional money.

The subcommittee’s ranking member, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), again voiced concern about the working conditions at the CVC, He cited a June 3 letter from John Tarpey, president and CEO of Sequence 1 contractor Centex Construction. The letter criticized the GAO’s May 17 testimony that characterized the conditions at the CVC as unsafe when Centex served as the primary contractor.

“We believe our information we reported … was correct,” Ungar said. “The comparison we did was based on the agreement that OSHA entered into with Centex, we used the benchmark rate that Centex agreed to meet with OSHA.”

Ungar added, “Centex safety rating got worse between [2003] and [2004], so Centex didn’t even meet that rating goal.”

Durbin proposed a review of Centex’s safety records on other government-funded projects.

The Sequence 2 contractor, Manhattan Building Co., received no citations during a surprise inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on May 24, according to Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman.

“They were satisfied with the work that Manhattan was doing with emphasis on worker safety, and they identified no significant issues to address, no citations,” Hantman said.