Sunday 20 October 2019

Construction firm building National Children’s Hospital says hospital board can 'opt out of contract'

Estimated cost has soared from an original estimate of €650m to more than €1.7bn

Work underway at the site of the new Children’s Hospital. Photo: Mark Condren
Work underway at the site of the new Children’s Hospital. Photo: Mark Condren
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The construction company building the National Children’s Hospital has offered to withdraw from the project if the hospital board want it to.

BAM, the firm building the landmark hospital at St James’s Hospital in Dublin 8 and the satellite centres, has commented publicly for the first time since controversy erupted over the scale of the over-runs.

Work at the National Children’s Hospital site in Dublin. Picture: PA
Work at the National Children’s Hospital site in Dublin. Picture: PA

In a statement the company said it will “continue its commitment” to the hospital but added that “the confidence of all parties involved is a vital requirement for the company.”

It offered to pull out of the project - which has been mooted for a number of years - if the board wished to procure the works another way.

CEO of BAM Ireland, Theo Cullinane, said: “BAM wishes to advise the hospital board that if it would prefer to opt out of this contract and procure the work in some other way, then BAM will cooperate with them to facilitate this option.”

In a statement this evening, the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) said: "The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board is committed to delivering the new children’s hospital. We have nothing further to add at this time."

This week, the Dáil heard that the board had raised concerns about the contractor during a board meeting, expressing concern about the company falling short of expectations.

Focus also turned this week to procurement processes by which the State awards large public contracts and during a debate on this issue Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there are a small number of companies who he would not like to see win another public contract, alleging that some were “low-balling” when they bid for State work.

Mr Varadkar did not specify what companies he was speaking about.

BAM has now written to the Taoiseach’s office calling on him to clarify that he was not referring to them “and that BAM has made and continues to make a significant contribution to Ireland, including in the context of the New Children’s Hospital, where BAM is in full compliance with all its obligations”.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said he was “perfectly clear in the Dáil and there is no need for him to clarify further".

A PwC review of the cost escalation which saw the cost of the hospital rise by some €450m is underway which BAM said it will “fully engage” with.

The company also said: “BAM wishes to confirm that it did not benefit inappropriately from the tender process and much of the commentary is based on incomplete and inaccurate information.”

A Government spokesperson said that “the Taoiseach did not reference any specific company in the Dáil.

"The Government is not satisfied with several aspects of how the New National Children’s Hospital project has been delivered.

"There is understandable public concern about the matter. For this reason, PWC has been commissioned to carry out an independent examination. He hopes and trusts that all parties and contractors will co-operate fully with it.”

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