Taxpayers are facing a bill of more than €100m to cover the costs of outstanding tribunals and commissions of inquiry established by the Government, the Taoiseach has confirmed.
Speaking before the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Leo Varadkar revealed that a number of the outstanding inquiries will face significant further cost escalations.
Mr Varadkar said he faces weekly calls to establish inquiries but warned that politicians who do so need to remember they cost a lot of taxpayer money.
He said in relation to the Moriarty Tribunals and the Cooke (Nama and Project Eagle) and Cregan (IBRC/Siteserv) commissions of inquiry, that estimates may turn out to be wrong because of third-party legal fees.
He said it is never possible to know the final costs because of things like third-party fees and how it does its work: “But to give you some rough figures, on Moriarty the spend to date has been €65m, and our best estimate, and it is only an estimate, is that will top out at €75m, depending on costs awards."
“On Cregan, which is the IBRC commission, the spend to date has been €7m but we anticipate the spend could end up at €30m.
"It is difficult to say when that will end. I have sought an interim report but I have not received that yet,” he added.
“On Cooke, that is the one looking into Nama and allegations made around Project Eagle, the spend to date is €2m, and it is expected it will top out at €10m, but these are just estimates,” he said.
Labour's finance spokeswoman and former Tánaiste Joan Burton pressed Mr Varadkar to confirm the outstanding figure is in excess of €100m.
The Taoiseach responded in the affirmative saying: “Yes, this is something we should all bear in mind because there isn't a week that goes by that the opposition, TDs or party leaders, call for an inquiry or a tribunal or whatever.
And while they may be merited, we must bear in mind the time that they take, they often don't give people the answers they want or need and they cost the taxpayer a lot of money. So we all need to bear that in mind when we call for inquiries into the future.
Mr Varadkar confirmed that the final cost of the National Broadband Plan will be “multiples” of the original figure of €500m.
He also appeared to leave open the possibility that the contracts with the sole remaining bidder may not be signed
Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty cited the Taoiseach's comments that the cost escalation in the National Children's Hospital is “scandalous”, but was baffled when Mr Varadkar refused to use the same adjective to describe the overrun on broadband.
“It could be as much as €3bn,” Mr Doherty said.