Laura Bush's Pet Project in Iraq Fails Miserably
Why aren't fiscal conservatives raising hell over this? Oh right, because they're reaping the financial benefits:
The United States is dropping Bechtel, the American construction giant, from a project to build a high-tech children's hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after the project fell nearly a year behind schedule and exceeded its expected cost by as much as 150 percent.
Called the Basra Children's Hospital, the project has been consistently championed by the first lady, Laura Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and was designed to house sophisticated equipment for treating childhood cancer.
Now it becomes the latest in a series of American taxpayer-financed health projects in Iraq to face overruns, delays and cancellations. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers canceled more than $300 million in contracts held by Parsons, another American contractor, to build and refurbish hospitals and clinics across Iraq.
Beyond the consequences for health care in southern Iraq, abandoning the project could be tricky politically because of the high-profile support from Mrs. Bush and Ms Rice. Congress allocated $50 million to the Basra Children's Hospital in late 2003 as part of an $18.4 billion reconstruction package for Iraq. Now the government estimates that the cost overruns are so great that the project will cost as much as $120 million to complete and will not be finished before September 2007, nearly a year later than planned. Some other estimates put the overruns even higher. Kadhim Hassan, general director of the Basra Health Department, said the project would be no more than 40 percent complete once the original $50 million, much of which is going to subcontractors, had been used up. He said little work had been done for months.