The head of the Public Accounts Committee has said a refusal on the part of the State to give an update on the National Children’s Hospital is “unacceptable”, and described the project as “lost at sea”.
In February, at a PAC meeting which had itself been delayed by three months, the chief officer of the National Paediatric Health Development Board had assured the committee that a review of the project, including updated costs and revised completion date, would be delivered within a month. No such update has yet been received.
A letter from the Department of Health’s new secretary general, Robert Watt, to the committee earlier in June said that “elements of this exercise continue to be confidential and will remain commercially sensitive fro an extended period”, adding that the hospital, last budgeted at costing €1.7bn in 2019, will comprise “the best value for public expenditure” when finished.
“I understand that the department may need time to pick apart a project that is clearly in a mess,” said Brian Stanley, Sinn Féin TD and chair of the PAC.
“But in relation to if we ever see it or not [the update], more likely not, well that’s not on. That may be where they’re going, but that’s not where we’re going.”
Mr Stanley said that “some of these matters should have been sorted before the project started”, adding that “the whole project is literally lost at sea”.
“It’s lost at sea and we’re not even clear when it’s going to get to where it’s going, and that is unacceptable to me,” Mr Stanley said.
“This needs the intervention of a senior minister, given [Health Minister] Mr Donnelly is tied up, on behalf of the Taoiseach to show some senior oversight.”
Mr Stanley that he wants an update “before the summer break” on July 14.
“And if we have to come back over the summer to hear this then so be it,” he said.
The National Children’s Hospital was first approved for construction in 2015 and had initially been slated for completion in 2020 at a cost of €650m.
The National Paediatric Health Development Board has acknowledged that It is unlikely now to be completed before mid-2024 at the earliest.