Tuesday 20 March 2018

Probe into €1bn Children's Hospital bill

An artist's impression of the new National Children's Hospital
An artist's impression of the new National Children's Hospital
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Dáil's powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is to probe the expected €1bn cost of the National Children's Hospital.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) is being asked to provide TDs with a detailed explanation of how the costs have escalated by more than €300m from the original estimate of €650m.

And the board will be invited to appear before the committee, amid concern at the large increase in costs.

The issue was raised in a letter from Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath to the Committee.

PAC Chairman Seán Fleming said the NPHDB are accountable to this committee.

“They’ve incurred a lot of expenditure to date so we can immediately bring them in as it is and discuss their plans,” he said.

Mr Fleming referred back to previous capital projects such as the construction of the motorway network which led to rising costs and questioned if lessons had been learned.

He said that a concern has been expressed in recent days about so-called “low-balling”.

That’s when a project initially has lower estimated costs. After the project is approved by government it’s reached a point where even if the costs are escalating and it can’t be stopped because it’s progressed so far.

“That’s the worry,” Mr Fleming said.

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy – the State’s spending watchdog - said it’s not the first time that a hospital or large capital project has seen a large escalation in costs.

“It’s certainly something I’ll be looking at,” he added, but said that doesn’t prevent the PAC from examining the matter now.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane  said the PAC needs to know what the initial costings for the hospital were and Mr McCarthy said these were carried out by the Department of Health.

Mr Fleming said the committee will seek detailed reports on the costs of the National Children’s Hospital from the NPHDB and the Health Department.

The more than €1bn costs of the hospital was the subject of news reports earlier this month after the preferred bidder for the project was selected.

Fitting out the hospital with IT and other equipment is expected to cost a further €200m.

In a statement issued to Independent.ie tonight, the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board said the most competitive tender has been selected and full details of costs will be brought to the HSE is the final 'definitive business case' for the hospital.

Annual construction inflation rose to 9pc in 2017 and the project timeline has extended the NPH said. The statement also said the projected cost is within 5pc of the estimate made in November 2016.

"The final construction elements of the project compare favourably to the costs of international projects of a similar size and scale," the statement adds.

A number of elements of the hospital including equipment, commercial spaces and educational facilities for students are not included in the €650m estimate according to the board.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News