Monday 22 July 2019

Children’s Hospital shambles puts past Government waste in the shade


Our View

With every passing day the saga of the immense cost overruns at the National Children's Hospital gets ever more incredible.

In Ireland we are well used to the health service wasting vast sums of taxpayers' money - remember the shambles that was the PPARS payment system that saw its costs spiral from €9 million to €220 million almost overnight - but the children's hospital puts other examples of waste in the shade.

Initially due to cost a not insignificant €637 million, we recently learned that the project costs had almost trebled to hit an eye watering €1.7 billion.

That may have seemed bad enough but in the last few days the deservedly embattled officials in charge of the project have now admitted that the hospital could end up costing over €2 billion by the time it is eventually finished.

The enormous cost overrun is bad enough but what we are learning about how this was allowed to happen makes for even more disturbing reading.

It would appear that a combination of Ireland's utterly dysfunctional tendering process and gross mismanagement by the HSE, the Department of Health and Government spending watchdogs has led to situation that could have been avoided by anyone with even the most basic grasp of financial management.

The litany of idiotic errors that have been made by the many 'experts' involved in the project could have been foreseen and avoided by someone building their first house.

Indeed, the most inexperienced builder in the country could tell you that hiring different contractors to lay the foundations and then to actually build a house is a very ill-advised plan.

Budgeting to build a house without actually having the final plans from the architect and then agreeing a price for power cables before you know how many you will need is even more deluded.

One can only imagine the reaction from a bank manager if you applied for a mortgage on the back of such poor planning. You would probably, and justifiably, be laughed out the door.

And yet this is exactly the sort of collective lunacy that the officials behind the most expensive hospital on earth have been allowed get away with as they fritter away hundreds of millions.

That all this is happening as the Government claims it can't find the funds to pay nurses a decent wage - meanwhile it pays over €800,000 on agency staff to plug yawning staffing gaps in our hospitals - makes the reckless profligacy around the children's hospital even more galling.

And this isn't the only example of Government waste we've seen in the last week.

On Friday we also learned that the Government has splashed out €500,000 on its worthy but hardly vital effort to win Ireland a place on the UN Security Council. A whopping €100,000 alone was spent on a five minute promo video featuring Ireland's greatest statesmen, Bono. Given how our Government is splashing the cash these days one can only assume that a Hollywood mega studio was drafted in to shoot the promo clip which must have the production values of a typical summer blockbuster.

Enniscorthy Guardian