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

There are growing calls for accountability over the massive children's hospital overspend following the damning PwC report on the handling of the project.

During Leaders Questions in the Dail, Tánaiste Simon Coveney was forced to defend ministerial efforts to overhaul spending rules and tighten costs in the wake of the report.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin questioned why ministers had "not raised red flags" over the build cost, which has shot up from €650m in 2016 to some €1.7bn now - and which may still rise further.

The PwC report was a “damning indictment” of the entire process, Mr Martin said.

Both Health Minister Simon Harris and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe had been “asleep at the wheel,” he said.

Furthermore, there had been no challenge over the hospital spend at Cabinet level and “no one had asked any hard questions,” Mr Martin added.

Mr Coveney said the government accepted the PwC recommendations. He admitted it showed there had been weaknesses, planning problems and governance and budget issues with the hospital build project.

Furthermore, two-thirds of the price increase was down to an underestimation of the cost, he claimed. The two ministers mentioned would come back with decisions on how to tighten spending, he said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised the government for letting officials and ministers off the hook on the huge costs. There was no accountability, she said and she asked Mr Coveney again and again who would take the blame.

Who was “accountable for the political and professional incompetence,” she asked adding that the fiasco had happened under an “out of touch government”, which was “only concerned with cutting ribbons” and could not manage public money.

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