Crooked contractors, bribery and embezzlement are all subplots in a botched $153 million deal to build a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital near Pittsburgh, according to a report released Tuesday by the agency’s inspector general.
Veterans Affairs contracting officers and lawyers improperly dismissed evidence that the firm selected to build the project, Westar Development Co., was controlled by a man who admitted to embezzling money from a previous employer. They also failed to spot connections between Westar and a money man in the deal who pleaded guilty to bribery and racketeering charges three months after the lease was awarded.
Westar officials even claimed falsely that their project team would include a former VA executive as a consultant, an assertion that earned extra points from agency evaluators. That executive, William Montague, later pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and kickbacks while he worked at the veterans’ agency in return for inside information about lucrative agency contracts that apparently were unrelated to the Pennsylvania facility.