Monday 15 July 2019

Revealed: Health officials knew about €400m children's hospital cost overrun before last year's Budget

An artist's impression of the National Children’s Hospital
An artist's impression of the National Children’s Hospital

Philip Ryan and Eilish O'Regan

The National Children’s Hospital Development Board and senior Department of Health officials were aware of cost overruns totalling almost €400m in September last year.

At a board meeting on September 19, senior HSE and Department of Health officials discussed how construction costs were “trending very significantly over budget” coming in at €191m above previous estimates.

In addition, the board was told the main contractor submitted “substantial additional costs” which would require a further €200m.

The meeting was held while Fine Gael and Fianna Fail were holding budget negotiations which focused on the Department of Health's budget.

The September meeting attended by Department of Health secretary general Jim Breslin and HSE interim director general John Connaghan was given a breakdown of the €191m costs which arose from €91m extra needed to meet design and development bills.

While a further €100m would be needed for fire sprinklers, engineering costs and what is described as “programme realignment” bills.

The meeting was told the design “cost creep” arose from changes to “doors/materials/partitions/socket requirements and other items which were “missed in the bill of quantities”.

Mr Breslin is said to have “expressed significant concern about the construction cost trend” at the meeting.  The development board said they shared Mr Breslin’s concerns and it was noted there was a responsibility on the board to “control project”

Mr Breslin told the board to “consider mitigation to bring the project back within cost parameters”.

Health Minister Simon Harris has insisted he did not have the exact details of the costs overruns until November 9 last year which he then presented to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Fianna Fail has said the children’s hospital cost were not raised with the party during budget negotiations or during the review of the confidence and supply agreement.

Labour Party health spokesperson Alan Kelly said Mr Harris and Mr Donohoe’s claim they did not know about the cost until December “don’t stack up” following the publication of minutes.

“The Minister for Health has repeated over and over again that his Department wasn’t made aware of the full cost of the overrun until November 2018, we now know that this is not the case,” Mr Kelly said.

“If officials in the Department of Health knew since September 2018 and a high-ranking official in the Department of Public Expenditure sat on the National Paediatric Hospital Development board, how can it be that no ministers were informed until November 9th 2018? This does not stack up.

“Where has the political leadership from Harris and Donohoe been? How can there have been a complete lack of oversight from these two line ministers overseeing one of the largest capital projects being carried out by the State,” he added.

Online Editors

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