When the Government sold the National Lottery licence five years ago, for €405m, the justification was that the money was needed to construct the National Children’s Hospital, which, at that time, was estimated would cost €600m.
The estimate now is €1.5bn and expected to be €2bn. In public procurement, no-one is held to account. It is outrageous that this latest estimate is almost three times that quoted five years ago.
No doubt, this will mean cutbacks in other vital areas.
What has happened since then to increase the price and how have they got their figures so badly wrong? Who is responsible, and who, if anyone, will be held accountable? The silence from the opposition politicians is deafening. It smacks of the Celtic Tiger, when most state contracts encountered massive cost overruns, involving obscure contract arrangements and no single authority ever held accountable.
It appears to be government policy to sell off valuable state assets for a pittance. The lottery licence is a weekly cash-creating enterprise for its new owners, Premier Lotteries. The €405m received by the state from its sale has already been squandered on somewhat meaningless projects. We no longer own the National Lottery licence, we don’t have the money received from its sale, and we certainly have not got the National Children’s Hospital.
The lottery was a success and should have been kept in state ownership. It is difficult to understand how our government could not see the folly behind this sale and the forfeiting of a weekly windfall.
A year ago, amid great fanfare, the Government announced its 2040
development plan, which obviously is more pie in the sky.
They have underestimated the cost of the children’s hospital and its completion date has been pushed out by six years, to 2022. As the hospital has been planned for so long and is the first major infrastructural project undertaken by the Fine Gael-led government that came to power almost eight years ago, it is incredible to think that they have got it so wrong.
Or is it so incredible, given the many other issues they have failed to address during their tenure?