The mounting costs for the €1.7bn children's hospital is set to rise further — by at least €50m — but project chiefs still can't predict what the final bill will be for the new facility.
The chairman of the board overseeing the construction of the hospital has admitted that the final costs for its build are unknown.
Fred Barry told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that construction inflation will add to the final bill but that the cost to date is still within an agreed €1.433bn.
However, the hospital is expected to cost at least €1.7bn after it is fitted with equipment and services. The Opposition has suggested the project could top €2bn.
But the chairman of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board conceded that the additional costs — beyond this — can not be pinned down.
While the contract for the hospital build allows for and includes inflation running at 4%, the current rate is 7%. Mr Barry told PAC members: “It is true, we cannot say exactly where it is going to end up.”
Mr Barry conceded it is a "virtual certainty" that construction inflation will see costs rise.
PAC chairman, Seán Fleming, was critical of the fact that the €1.433bn figure provided by the NPHDB for construction has not been updated since last December.
TDs asked him about redacted documents about the build and why details were hidden. Mr Barry confirmed that documents from the board were redacted regarding conversations around inflation costs.
After questioning, he admitted that, with a 7% rate of inflation, an extra €50m could be added to the final bill for the hospital construction. But PAC was also told there would be no clawback for the taxpayer if construction inflation is less than the agreed 4% in the hospital building contract in future years.
Board officials also confirmed that changes to design are one of the biggest risks with the hospital build and that some could be expected at the back end of the project.
Mr Barry confirmed he had held discussions recently with Health Minister Simon Harris about possible extra costs, but the board has no minutes of this.
Mr Barry said claims are being made by the contractor for the hospital and that "so far we've been able to resist them."
Elsewhere, Independent TD Catherine Connolly was highly critical of the hospital board team for “wasting” money by using a PR company to prepare for the PAC meeting. She pointed to a communications spend of some €338,451 last year, which she said is “extraordinary”.
PR and communications costs of €285,000 have also been spent by the hospital project board up until the end of October so far this year, PAC was told.
But she lashed the board, who use the services of firm Q4, for spending funds on PR.
It is “totally unacceptable” and a “waste of taxpayers” to get PR advice for the PAC meeting, declared the TD.
She criticised the hospital board's use of pictures of the building site during the PAC hearing, insisting that what she wants is “accountability”.