The Government failed in its duty to supervise the building costs of the new €1.7bn children’s hospital which critics say have almost tripled inside two years – the Dáil has been told.
As controversy about the runaway costs intensified, both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin directed fire at both the Health Minister, Simon Harris, and Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe.
Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath said it appeared the Health Minister only learned about concerns on building cost increases in August 2018 and only managed to alert his senior colleague at the Finance Department in November 2018.
He said in the autumn 2018 the Government was finalising its Budget for this year 2019.
And these preparations should have factored in these feared serious over-runs which would dramatically change the public finances.
The Fianna Fáil TD said the entire situation raised serious questions at very least about communications in Government.
Referring to the Health Minister’s apparent slow pick-up on his officials’ concerns about costs, the Fianna Fáil TD asked:
“If he (Minister Harris) didn’t know - why didn’t he ask? Why was he not kept up to date?” Mr McGrath asked.
Mr McGrath said the reported delays in alerting the Finance Minister raised further serious issues. “Does anyone talk to anyone in this Government?” he further questioned.
Sinn Féin finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty, said the public no longer had confidence in this Government to manage spending taxpayers’ money.
“This Minister is out of his depth – and it’s not just on this subject,” Mr Doherty added later.
He argued that the other problems, including the nurses’ strike and doctors’ protests, added to the confusion in the health services.
Mr Doherty said it appeared both Ministers Harris and Donohoe were “asleep at the wheel.”
Replying for the Government Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy hit back pointedly at Sinn Féin. Mr Murphy said the party “has problems with due process” – and he urged Sinn Féin “to get the facts before you pull the trigger.”
Mr Murphy said the Government shared opposition and public anger over the hospital costs over-run – but had opted to continue with the project because of its importance.
The Housing Minister said economic consultants, PWC, would deliver a report in March.
The report would include asking why such cost over-runs happened and what measures could be taken to control and/or reduce these costs.