Taoiseach asked to correct Dáil record over 'misleading' remarks on hospital cost overruns

Taoiseach asked to correct Dáil record over 'misleading' remarks on hospital cost overruns
Roisin Shortall

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been asked to correct the Dáil record after previously claiming that a senior official was not obliged to tell the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe of rising costs for the children's hospital.

Social Democrats TD Roisin Shortall said it was clear now that a senior official with the Department of Public Expenditure (DPER) was required to tell his line minister about the overruns.

The claim comes after earlier advice today from the Comptroller and Auditor General who clarified that the DPER official, head of procurement Paul Quinn, who sat on a children's hospital board, according to rules, was legally obliged to inform the Finance Minister of cost overruns when they emerged.

Ms Shortall told the Dáil that Mr Varadkar's previous remarks were “misleading”.

The row stems over how and why ministers were not informed of the escalating costs for the hospital by board members, which included officials from DPER as well as from health.

Ms Shortall also claimed a circular, previously quoted by Opposition TDs, proved that Mr Quinn should have told the minister of concerns when these were not addressed by the board's chairman.

“Either he did or didn't,” added Ms Shortall.

Responding during Leaders, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the senior DPER official had a "duty to the hospital board in the first instance but that he was also accountable to the Department of Health, as this was overseeing the project".

There was a “line of communication there”, said Mr Coveney, to the Department of Health and an "obligation" there.

“There wasn't a separate line to the Department of Public Expenditure,” added Mr Coveney.

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