Latest: Review of children's hospital spend told to stop short of individual blame

Latest: The review of the rising costs of the National Children's Hospital has been told not to find any individuals to blame.

The terms of reference for the investigation were told to find accountability without blaming any individuals.

Seán Fleming, Chairman of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee

No individual involved in the new National Children's Hospital will be blamed by a review into the spiralling costs of the project.

Terms of reference seen by Newstalk instruct the investigation to stop short of individual blame.

Chairman of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee Seán Fleming says that is not good enough.

You can blame the system but you're not to blame anyone.

While Labour TD Alan Kelly says the terms of reference need to change: "That is not acceptable to the taxpayers of Ireland.

"The government are not going to pull the wool over our eyes. These terms of reference are not what was expected."

Health Minister Simon Harris has signed off on the terms of reference.

The review will seek to find out the sequence of events that has led to the overspend.

The hospital was meant to cost €650 million but the current price tag is €1.7 billion.

It also aims to establish who knew what and when about the rising costs.

The report is due on March 22.

Howlin: Children's hospital 'a runaway train'

By Vivienne Clarke

Update 11.15am: Labour party leader Brendan Howlin has described the escalating costs of the national children’s hospital as “a runaway train that no one has control over”

He said it had been a mistake to amalgamate the position of Minister for Public Expenditure.

There is a need to have a specific line Minister to ensure good value for public expenditure, he told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

Brendan Howlin

“Where was the political oversight? This wouldn’t have happened if there was weekly and monthly examination of what was being spent. This is not a bottomless pit.”

He said questions have to be answered about when the increase in costs occurred, who knew, who signed off and did the Government say to proceed?

A fundamental mistake was made and it should be rectified before it costs any more, he said.

Who was aware of this escalation of cost? Was it withheld from the Minister and the Government? Was it felt that someone would just sign a cheque and they could carry on?

When asked if he thought Minister for Health Simon Harris bore some responsibility, Mr Howlin said the Minister is “an extraordinarily capable person,” but that if it transpired that he was aware of what was happening “then he has questions to answer.”

Dr Brian Turner, health economist in UCC, told the same programme that the increase in the projected cost of the hospital between 2017 and 2018 was 70% while over the same period the Society of Quantity Surveyors had observed an increase in the tender cost index of 11%.

“Something is gone seriously awry here. We need to know what went wrong.”

He said there are two problems – the longer the hospital is delayed, the greater the need for services and any delays are going to incur greater costs. “It is a Catch 22 situation.”

Dr Turner pointed out that in most public tender cases the most economical advantageous bid is accepted, however, he said that doesn’t always mean the best value for money.

'No one can explain why it went up': SF's Jonathan O’Brien says answers needed on children's hospital cost

Update 8.45am: “The buck stops with the Department of Health and they have to answer questions about cost overruns for the National Children’s Hospital,” is the position of Sinn Féin’s Junior Spokesperson on Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Jonathan O’Brien.

The Department of Health was the lead department on the hospital which is a health project he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Mr O’Brien said that the key question that had to be answered was how the cost of the hospital increased by €450m between June 2018 and November 2018.

“No one can explain why it went up.”

He hopes that the PWC report commissioned by the Department of Health can identify “why it went up so drastically. Until that is done no one can explain how it went up so significantly.”

He also expressed concern about governance issues and asked about the role of a government official appointed to the Development Board “to look out for the public interest.”

“I’d like to know when that official found out about the spiralling costs, what his role is, being a member of the Development Board.

"Why the department was not made aware (of the increased costs) until August 2018.”

Mr O’Brien also acknowledged that some capital projects will have to be put on hold because of the increased cost of the children’s hospital.

“We don’t know what is going to be put on hold. There is no doubt that some will go on the long finger.”

More on this topic

Ministers’ anger at children's hospital funding overrun

Clarity sought on potential conflict of interest over hospital review

Report into cost children's hospital overspend 'damning indictment' of process, FF leader says

Harris says he will strengthen governance of children's hospital board

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