Sunday 25 August 2019

Children's Hospital cost debacle 'stalled approval of key projects'

An artist’s impression of the new National Children’s Hospital which has been hit by cost overruns
An artist’s impression of the new National Children’s Hospital which has been hit by cost overruns
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Ireland needs to accelerate the construction of major infrastructure projects, including roads and rail, but Government departments have stalled making decisions because of the fallout from the National Children's Hospital debacle, according to the chief executive of Ireland's largest construction firm, Sisk.

Stephen Bowcott told the Irish Independent that Government departments have been cowed by the political fallout and the cost of the construction of the Children's Hospital in Dublin.

The projected final cost of the project has spiralled from €1bn to €1.7bn. The main contractor on the hospital is BAM Ireland.

"Because of the Children's Hospital, the departments are almost not making any decisions," claimed Mr Bowcott.

"The procurement route for the hospital is absolutely proven. But clearly it didn't work there and they need to understand why.

"It doesn't mean to say that the procurement route doesn't work, because it does."

The procurement process for the hospital saw its design evolve even after construction contracts were signed. "There's almost a moribund approach to procurement now," said Mr Bowcott, adding that improved rail links between Dublin and Cork and Belfast, as well the Metro construction in the capital, are needed as a matter of urgency.

However, he warned that such projects were still five or six years away.

"Different procurement routes for different projects is the answer," he added. "If we don't take advantage of the great economy we've got in Ireland, and build today, we won't have another chance.

"It's really important we get on with it now. What we need is brave procurement."

He said that contractors needed to be involved in major infrastructure projects at the design stage, but that such works could still then be openly tendered.

"At least you'd get the budgets right," he said.

The chief executive also said that the Government needed a central committee to push local authorities to get the social housing model to work effectively.

"There are too many marginal officers, too many marginal councillors, that are actually standing in the way of this now being delivered," he said.

"We need central control to say that site is going to have that mix [of housing] and let's get on with it."

Mr Bowcott was speaking as Sisk reported its results for 2018.

Its turnover rose 24pc to €1.17bn, while its pre-tax profit was up 6pc at €28.3m.

Irish Independent

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