New federal courthouses are turning out to be considerably more expensive and different in size from plans approved by Congress, and lawmakers often are in the dark as to why, says a Government Accountability Office report quoted by the Arizona Republic. Such cost overruns as the combined $25 million paid for courthouses in Phoenix and Tucson were partly to blame for a two-year halt on building U.S. courts nationwide. In a nine-month examination of 38 projects since 1998, the GAO found that 29 courthouses changed in cost, building size or both.
Cumulative outlays exceeded original design estimates by more than $250 million and topped later construction estimates by nearly $116 million. The study faulted the General Services Administration, which oversees construction, for providing little explanation to Congress. Primary reasons for changes included delayed appropriations, the need for heightened security after the 1995 federal building bombing in Oklahoma City, and changes in court caseloads between original plans and actual construction. GSA Administrator Stephen Perry said his agency is taking measures both to reduce costs and keep Congress updated as significant changes occur.