Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy (above left) and Department of Health Secretary General Robert Watt (above right) whose letter to the Public Accounts Committe warns against any discussion on costs or dates on construction of the National Children’s Hospital (top)
The Department of Health is refusing to release details of a review into the new Children’s Hospital to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), according to Social Democrats co-leader, and vice-chair of the PAC, Catherine Murphy.
Earlier this month, Mr Watt sent the PAC a letter which states:
“There is an extremely high likelihood that any discussion on costs or dates, however hypothetical, even from the draft stages of the process, would prejudice enforcement of the existing contract and very likely undermine the role of the Development Bord in its ongoing engagement with the main contractor.”
Ms Murphy said:
“A comprehensive review of this project, by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board and the Department of Health, has been ongoing since last year. The Minister was given their draft report in January.
“In February, the PAC was told that report would be concluded within weeks – at which point there would finally be clarity about the hospital’s budget. But there appears to be a new approach now there is a new Secretary General.
According to Mr Watt, all of the most controversial information about this project – the cost and timeline – is suddenly too sensitive to publish. What a stroke of luck for the Department.
“The PAC is the State’s public spending watchdog. How on earth is it supposed to do its job if Departments won’t tell us how much they are spending? Mr Watt’s intervention has ensured this debacle has gone from tragedy to farce.
“This latest review is at least the 13th into this omnishambles. Between 2017 and 2019, 11 separate reviews were undertaken at a cost of €700,000. An additional report was then sought from PwC at a cost of €450,000.
“After 12 reports costing €1.15 million, what did we learn? That the taxpayer would be lucky to emerge with any change from €1.7 billion for this project.
“Now, there is another report, the details of which are apparently too explosive to publish. What is the Department trying to hide?
“We know there have been more than 800 claims submitted by the contractor and the Hospital Development Board has been without a chairperson, and two members, since January.
How much is this project going to cost the Irish people; when is it going to be delivered and who is in charge of delivery?
“It is incredible that we still don’t have answers to these basic questions.”
Previously: There Cannot Be Price Certainty At This Point