Government defends Children's Hospital project as it faces calls for overspend accountability
The Government has launched a staunch defence of the Children’s Hospital project as it faces increased to calls for accountability for the overspend of the St James’s site.
Opposition leaders and TDs today called on the government to hold somebody to account over the €450m overrun.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney insisted the long awaited PwC report identifying significant failings in the projected pointer to an underestimation of costs instead of an overspend.
During Leaders Questions in the Dáil today he told TDs the report showed the government made the correct decision to “press ahead with the project” instead of retendering it.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed the government has failed to scrutinise the project. He said officials “were asleep at the wheel”.
“Nobody in Government asked hard questions of this project. Where is the accountability in terms of the health minister?
“There is no control, nobody asking difficult questions at Cabinet.”
Mr Coveney said the resignation of Tom Costello, the former chairman of New Children's Hospital Development Board, demonstrated there had been accountability.
He said the government accepted responsibility for the project but insisted the project was incorrectly costed, not running at an overrun.
He added that it is not correct to say these mistakes were repeated on other State schemes, such as the National Broadband Plan.
“It was a gross under-estimation of what it costs to undertake a project of this size.
“There are lessons to be learned.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said this is the latest crisis in the health service and called for accountability.
“Our health service is in a perpetual state of crisis,” she said.
“Hospital waiting lists continue to grow and we now have the worst waiting lists in Europe. Now to top it all off we have this hospital.”
Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace called for the government to revisit the tendering process for the construction of the hospital.
Mr Coveney said this would not happen but conceded there are lessons for the Government to take from the New Children’s Hospital.
“Red flags should have been raised much earlier,” he said.
“There needs to be more intense scrutiny of projects when they move ahead.”
He added there was no evidence to suggest the Government should “reconsider the project”.