Questions are being raised at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) about the €120,000 cost for a jobs website for Children’s Health Ireland (CHI).
CHI is responsible for three Dublin paediatric hospitals and is the client for the new National Children’s Hospital, where there have been major construction cost overruns.
Concerns were also raised that a PR budget for €83,000 this year could involve payments for the preparation of CHI personnel for appearances before the committee itself.
Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy said a procurement process at CHI had been non-compliant with tendering requirements.
CHI said its non-compliance on the jobs website “occurred due to the over-extension of a legacy arrangement with the company.”
The separate PR contract had been a process completed by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) before the CHI became a legal entity, he said.
Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy said he could not understand why CHI could felt the need to spend such a large amount on a public relations budget for a standalone company.
The CHI had not outlined any rationale for this decision, he said.
Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry said he had no quibble with Q4, the public relations company, which was “a very professional outfit,” but there was a principle involved.
It was a matter of practice now that a PR firm was engaged for any project, even though there was in-house capability. He suggested that some of the money was used to prepare the principals for their appearances before the Public Accounts Committee.
“I don’t think that’s a space we should be in.”
Chairman Brian Stanley said the two figures involved, for the website and PR company, were substantial. The clerk of the committee would be asked to write to Children’s Health Ireland to seek greater clarity, he said.