March 13, 2012
By Brett D. Schaefer
That 4 percent overrun amounts to real money — more than $80 million. But that’s chump change compared to the real stakes in this story.
When the renovation was first proposed, more than ten years ago, the General Accounting Office (as the Government Accountability Office was then called) estimated it should cost from $875 million to $1.2 billion. But the project kept growing — winding up at roughly twice that size under the U.N.’s official, currently approved CMP budget of $1.9 billion.
But even that inflated baseline may be a gross underestimate. Last week, New York architect Michael Adlerstein, the executive director of the U.N. renovation and a U.N. assistant secretary general, informed the U.S. and other U.N. member states that the cost overrun will be not $80 million, but $265 million. And even that new estimate is subject to upward revision, because it does not include certain foreseeable costs.
Adlerstein’s announcement outraged Ambassador Joseph Torsella at the U.S. mission to the U.N. He promptly demanded that the CMP “determine how these additional costs occurred & take prompt measures to reduce them to complete the project w/o new assessments.”
“US support [is] not a blank check from American taxpayers,” Torsella added.
Outrage is exactly the correct response. The U.S. has every right to demand that the overruns be handled within the current budget and not result in additional charges to the member states — notably the U.S., which foots the largest share of the U.N.’s bills. Furthermore, what has happened with the headquarters renovation has implications for other U.N. projects.
Currently in the planning stages is a brand new U.N. building to be erected on the Robert Moses Playground, next to the current U.N. compound. Last fall, the U.N. quietly released a report acknowledging that the cost of constructing the new building would not be the $370 million to $475 million reported in the press. Instead, it will be between $1.97 billion and $2.42 billion. In other words, the new U.N. tower will cost about five to six times the initial estimate reported by the media. Guess which country’s taxpayers will be stuck with at least 22 percent of the bill?
But that is not all. The U.N. also plans to renovate its Geneva headquarters once the New York renovation is complete. A report by the secretary general titled “Strategic heritage plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva” estimates that that project will cost between $591 million and $654 million. Given recent history, what are the odds that this estimate is accurate?
“Fool me once . . .” The U.S. should say, “Enough is enough.” We must hold firm on Ambassador Torsella’s demand that the additional costs for the CMP be absorbed within the current U.N. budget. We should also state our opposition to the new U.N. building and demand much stronger vetting and oversight — including multiple, independent bids — for any other U.N. renovation project, in Geneva or elsewhere.
Brett D. Schaefer is the Jay Kingham Fellow in international regulatory affairs at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in National Review Online
Brett D. Schaefer
Jay Kingham Senior Research Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2014, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973