Donohoe has as many questions to answer on Children’s Hospital as Harris

04 February 2019

Labour Party Health spokesperson, Alan Kelly TD, has said Minister Paschal Donohoe has as many questions to answer on the mismanagement in the spending of the National Children’s Hospital as Minister Simon Harris.

Deputy Kelly said:

“On RTÉ Radio One, Paschal Donohoe stated that he wasn’t aware of the National Children’s Hospital overspend until last November. Minister Donohoe’s comments are not compatible with what we were told at in terms of timelines by the Department of Health last week at the Health Committee. The Secretary General of the Department of Health told us last week that the Department of Public Expenditure were informed about problems with costs in October 2018. It is hard to believe it would take over a month for officials in DPER to inform Minister Donohoe of news of this nature.

“It’s very hard to understand why the Minister for Public Expenditure wasn’t informed of a cost overrun of this scale considering it is one of the largest capital projects being undertaken by the State.

“This Minister has to bring a memo to cabinet every single month on all major items of expenditure so how come he wasn’t aware of this massive overspend and reporting it to cabinet. You’d have to question how his Department is actually functioning if this wasn’t happening?

“This is especially the case when one of his own senior officials was sitting on the Hospital Development Board since 2013 and contrary to the bogus Government claims that he was there in a personal capacity, Circular 2010/12 from Minister Donohoe’s own Department sets out very clearly the responsibilities of a Civil Service Board appointee and what action he/she should take and how he/she should inform the Department Secretary General and the Minister.

“It doesn’t make sense to people on the ground that on one hand Minister Donohoe says there isn’t enough money to sort out the nurses’ strike, yet on the other hand there seems to be enough money to deal with this gross overspend in the Children’s Hospital.

“In terms of governance, it is clear from the oversight board minutes that a cost overrun was first brought to the table in August 2017, yet line Ministers were only told in August 2018 and November 2018 that there was an overspend. Why wasn’t the Minister’s Department monitoring spend? Why didn’t either Simon Harris or Paschal Donohoe make in their business to keep themselves in the loop?

“As I have said if Brexit was not at the centre of everybody’s mind, there would be more focus on the political implications of Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe’s hands off approach which has got us in this situation.

“It’s clear that Harris and Donohoe have many questions to answer but both are going to hide behind the excuse of the PWC report.

“The handling of dealing with these overruns has been absolutely shambolic and the fact that we are still none the wiser as to if the costs will reach the €2 billion mark is embarrassing, especially when we are in the middle of a nursing strike where workers are being told that taxpayers won’t thank them if they get a wage increase. The taxpayers are the ones being taken for a fool when it comes to the cost of this project.”

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