The Department of Health has yet to finalise its assessment of the revised budget and timelines regarding the construction of the new National Children’s Hospital, nearly six weeks after it had been expected.
A detailed analysis of the €1.7bn project, which has been plagued by delays and exponential escalations in its budget, had been compiled by the National Paediatric Health Development Board (NPHDB), the body with responsibility for the hospital’s construction, over a number of months and submitted to the department in early February.
Speaking at the Public Accounts Committee on February 9, David Gunning, chief officer of the NPHDB, said he hoped to be able to deliver further clarity regarding the cost of the project “before the end of February or in early March”.
However, the department has now said once more that its review of the project is “expected in the coming weeks”.
“It would not be appropriate to comment on costs or timelines until this review is complete,” a spokesperson said.
The review has been delayed before, with the Health Committee told by the NPHDB last November that it would be available for January 2021.
Brian Stanley, Sinn Féin TD and chair of the PAC, described the indistinct budget status and a lack of clarity over when the hospital would be completed as “an absolutely incredible situation”.
“We were supposed to have a timeline and the price in January, we delayed our meeting because of that, they promised we’d have it in March and we still don’t have it,” he said.
Mr Stanley also raised the issue of the between 400 and 500 financial claims outstanding that were made by BAM, the main contractor for the NCH, in light of a €20m lawsuit lodged in the High Court by the company following a failed conciliation process over one claim.
“How many claims does that case encompass?” he asked. “Is it a small number? Because the potential exposure for the taxpayer and the State is enormous.”
“I’m not at all confident that the board has the capacity or capability to see this project through,” he said, adding “this needs the Government to intervene at a senior level”.