Capitol Visitor Center:

Priority Attention Needed to Manage Schedules and Contracts

GAO-05-714T: Published: May 17, 2005. Publicly Released: May 17, 2005.

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Approved in the late 1990s, the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) is the largest project on the Capitol grounds in over 140 years. Its purposes are to provide greater security for all persons working in or visiting the U.S. Capitol and to enhance the educational experience of visitors who have come to learn about Congress and the Capitol building. When completed, this three-story, underground facility, located on the east side of the Capitol, is designed to be a seamless addition to the Capitol complex that does not detract from the appearance of the Capitol or its historic landscaping. According to current plans, it will include theaters, an auditorium, exhibit space, a service tunnel for truck loading and deliveries, storage, and additional space for use by the House and Senate. This testimony discusses the Architect of the Capitol's (AOC) management of the project's schedules and contracts; the project's estimated costs, including risks and uncertainties; worker safety issues; and AOC's monthly reporting to Congress on the project. This testimony also discusses recommendations that we have made in previous testimony and briefings and the actions AOC has taken in response.

In summary, the CVC project is taking about 2 years longer than planned and is expected to cost between about $522 million and $559 million--significantly more than originally estimated. The majority of delays and cost increases were largely outside AOC's control, but weaknesses in AOC's schedule and contract management contributed to a portion of the delays and cost overruns. Of the project's estimated cost increase, about $147 million is due to scope changes, such as the addition of the House and Senate expansion spaces; about $45 million to other factors also outside or largely outside AOC's control, such as higher than expected bid prices on the sequence 2 contract; and about $58 million to factors more within AOC's control, such as delays. Also, our analysis of CVC worker safety data showed that the injury and illness rate for 2003 was about 50 percent higher for CVC than for comparable construction sites and that the rate for 2004 was about 30 percent higher than the rate for 2003. Finally, a number of AOC's monthly reports to Congress have not accurately reflected the status of the project's construction schedules and costs and have transmitted inaccurate worker safety data. This has led to certain "expectation gaps" within Congress. AOC has taken a number of actions to improve its management of the project; however, these actions have not yet fully corrected all identified problems. To help prevent further schedule delays, control cost growth, and enhance worker safety, AOC urgently needs to give priority attention to managing the project's construction schedules and contracts, including those contract provisions that address worker safety. These actions are imperative if further cost growth, schedule delays, and worker safety problems are to be avoided. AOC also needs to see that it reports accurate information to Congress on the project. Furthermore, decisions by Congress will have to be made regarding the additional funding needed to complete construction and address any risks and uncertainties that arise.

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