Sunday 26 May 2019

Firm accused of 'conflict' in two hospital reports


Séan Fleming: Reviews claim. Photo: Collins
Séan Fleming: Reviews claim. Photo: Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The involvement of consultancy firm PwC in two reviews relating to the controversial National Children's Hospital (NCH) project has been branded a "gross conflict of interest".

The claim was made by Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming, the chairman of the Dáil's spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee.

PwC was hired by the Government earlier this year at a reported cost of up to €500,000 to conduct a review of the escalating costs of the NCH. Construction costs alone at the hospital are set to come to €1.4bn.

The resulting report from PWC concluded that once the cost increase had emerged, taking any alternative course of action other than proceeding would have led to delay, increased costs and the possibility the hospital would not be built.

It emerged at last week's PAC meeting that PwC was previously involved in advising the HSE on options on the future of the hospital project late last year.

The HSE's report from last November entitled 'The New Children's Hospital Programme: Options Going Forward' says that proceeding with the plan to build the hospital was the most viable option to ensure the most timely and cost-effective completion of the project.

In a letter to the PAC, the HSE denied that PwC's involvement in both reviews had been a conflict of interest.

The HSE said it had sought "high level input" from a range of health construction and procurement specialists, including PwC.

It said that none of those parties had any role in the subsequent decision-making process.

TDs today disputed the HSE's contention that PwC's involvement in both reviews did not amount to a conflict of interest.

Mr Fleming claimed it was a "gross conflict of interest" and argued that it was "inappropriate" for PwC to have been asked to carry out the report into the costs, due to their previous role in advising the HSE on options for the NCH project.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said it seemed to him that PwC was "paid twice" for the same advice and also claimed its involvement in both reviews was a "clear conflict of interest".

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said there should be procurement rules to prevent such a situation occurring.

The PAC agreed to write to the HSE asking for the nature of the advice PwC gave last November, how much it cost and if any PwC staff worked on both NCH reports.

Last night, in a statement, PwC said: "We are satisfied that we do not have a conflict of interest."

Irish Independent

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