Australia's ASIO headquarters' cost soars

May 29, 2012 at 1:22 PM

CANBERRA, Australia, May 29 (UPI) -- The cost of Australia's Australian Security Intelligence Organization's new headquarters has risen to more than $621 million.

The new building, in a Canberra suburb, was announced in 2007 by the government of Prime Minister John Howard and its cost was to be $453 million. Scheduled to open next year, the new ASIO headquarters will house more than 2,000 employees, The Canberra Times reported Tuesday.

Since construction began five years ago costs have repeatedly ballooned. A spokeswoman for the Finance Department said that the project's latest increase resulted from ''contractors underestimating the extent and cost of their works on this highly complex project.''

Adding to the uncertainties over finishing the building and its final costs, recently nearly 60 electrical contractors were forced to abandon work on the project when their company, Heyday Group, went bankrupt.

ASIO, Australia's national security service, was formed in 1949 and its mandate includes protecting Australia from espionage, sabotage, foreign subversion, politically motivated violence, attacks on Australia's military and terrorism.

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