Simon Harris: National Children's Hospital overspend not a scandal

Simon Harris: National Children's Hospital overspend not a scandal

The Health Minister Simon Harris has said he will make sure no money is wasted in the delivery of the National Children's Hospital.

He has insisted that the €400m overspend is not a scandal.

Questions were raised last August by a board sub-committee about whether or not the State could afford the project.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Minister Harris claimed the only scandal in relation to the project would have been to cancel it.

The projected cost of the project has spiralled to at least €1.7bn over recent months – up from the original €650m estimate.

An independent review of the procurement process is currently being carried out by auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Minister Harris said the review will determine whether the costs overruns avoidable.

“The only scandal in relation to this would have been the decision to cancel the project,” he said.

“Was this a situation where, being quite frank, it was always going to cost more than it was estimated?

“Were we let down by advice? Where did that go wrong?

“We will get to the bottom of that.

“Or is this a hospital that actually could have costs reined in and that people somewhere along the line have gone too flaithulach?”

Over the weekend, Minister Harris said re-tendering the contract for the project would only delay it further and said he remains “absolutely committed” to delivering it.

It comes as new documents show that one of the boards responsible for the National Children's Hospital project raised concerns over its affordability in August.

In a meeting on August 1, 2018, the sub-committee, responsible for construction and finance, warned that achieving savings on the project was going to be difficult from the start.

Members were also told that the cost overruns would have happened even if a different contractor was chosen to build the hospital.

They also warned that any further cost increases would be challenging for the health capital plan.

Members were told that it was necessary to take account of all figures surrounding the project to see if the State could still afford the plans.

The board also met with press advisors to discuss a communications strategy for either moving forward with the project as planned or moving on to a Plan B.

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