Saturday 23 March 2019

NCH's board's confidentiality clause signed amid rising costs

Simon Harris
Simon Harris

Cormac McQuinn and Kevin Doyle

Attendees of a meeting that discussed the rising costs of the National Children's Hospital agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement on the process of determining the final price.

Those at the meeting were given an update on the process of agreeing the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) with the contractors. The details are contained in the minutes of the construction and finance sub-committee of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB).

The discussions on August 30, 2018, were deemed "highly commercially sensitive" and all parties in the room were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement to ensure no issues relating to the project's main contractors BAM and the budget were discussed "outside of the people that need to know". The minutes state that all attendees agreed to this.

The meeting came just days after Health Minister Simon Harris was told costs for the NCH were escalating, but others in Government would not learn this until later.

Last night a spokesperson for the NPHDB said that it "communicated about the delays in the GMP process at the appropriate junctures and through the appropriate channels, ie the governance structure within which it operates".

They added that the "NPHDB is also currently participating with the HSE-commissioned PwC report into the increased costs, and communication about the GMP process forms part of its scope of work".

Mr Harris faces a motion of confidence over the controversy in the Dáil tomorrow. Clare doctor Michael Harty is set to give a vote of no confidence after earlier indicating he would abstain.

Louth Independent Peter Fitzpatrick has also said Mr Harris should go as he is "responsible" for the hospital.

Fine Gael TDs will be warned not to miss the vote to ensure Mr Harris wins comfortably.

There is little fear on the Government benches that Mr Harris will be ousted from office after Fianna Fáil committed to abstaining on the Sinn Féin motion.

Sinn Féin TD Louise Reilly claimed the minutes show that only three days after the Minister for Health was briefed about the potential overspend, members of the committee discussed "whether the State could afford the project and whether it should proceed".

"These discussions should have taken place at Cabinet level, but they didn't take place until three months later due to a mix of inaction and incompetence by the Minister for Health," she said.

Irish Independent

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