A member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called on the Taoiseach and the Government to appraise themselves of what is being spent on the new children’s hospital rather than “just showing up in a hard hat for a photo op”.
Marc MacSharry, a Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim, told RTÉ Radio’sshow that correspondence from the National Paediatric Hospital development board, presented to the PAC, now claims there are a number of exceptions outside the approved budget and that there cannot be price certainty on the final cost at this point for the new children’s hospital.
“Finally now we know, we have in writing ‘there are a number of exceptions that have always been outside the approved budget and to which there cannot be price certainty at this point, or for the duration of the project’ so in essence there is a blank cheque for this project which started as low as €300m and we're now headed for €2bn.
What the chief officer David Gunning, in response to the PAC admitted today, is nobody knows now and nobody will know how much this is going to cost until it is finished. It is simply madness.
When asked if he knew what the exceptions would be, he said “no we don't know because we had them in on two occasions over the last year to outline cost".
“This same letter says the approved budget as discussed has not changed, however, it then goes on with the blank cheque talk, which is ‘exceptions which are not known now and will not be known for the duration of the project’ and all the while we have loose references by the Government and the Taoiseach to say that ‘costs may rise.’
“We simply cannot operate a State on this basis with a non-executive hands off approach by Government and a national paediatric hospital board, who, by their own admission now in writing, that they haven't a clue either.
“If I'm building a house, I don't go to tender and award the contract to a builder before I've designed it, and that was a big failing in this project and now we're playing catch up. To date €400m to €600m has been spent on constructions and we simply don't know where it's going to end.
“This information should not have to be dragged out in this way by the Public Accounts Committee - there's a Minister for Health and junior ministers and the Taoiseach, this is the biggest contract that the State will see in the next couple of years and I think they need to appraise themselves of what people's money is being spent on.
They need to exercise a little bit of executive management of their money not just turn up in a hard hat for a photo call.