Presentation and Circulation of Further Revised Estimates 2019: Motion

I move:

That, notwithstanding Standing Order 182(1) or (2) of the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann relative to Public Business or the Resolution of the Dáil of 19th December, 2018, the following Further Revised Estimate for the Public Services for the year ending 31st December, 2019, be presented to the Dáil and circulated to members on 20th February, 2019, being a date later than that prescribed for the presentation of Estimates, and that the Further Revised Estimates be referred to Select Committees, as appropriate, pursuant to Standing Orders 84A(3)(c) and 182(3).

Vote 9 — Office of the Revenue Commissioner (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 11 — Public Expenditure and Reform (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 13 — Office of Public Works (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 17 — Public Appointments Service (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 18 — National Shared Services Office (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 24 — Justice and Equality (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 29 — Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 31 — Transport, Tourism and Sport (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 33 — Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 34 — Housing, Planning and Local Government (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 38 — Health (Further Revised Estimate).

Vote 42 — Rural and Community Development (Further Revised Estimate).

The Revised Estimates Volume, REV, for public services 2019 presented to the House last December set out the allocation of Government expenditure by Vote for 2019. In total, there is an amount of €66.6 billion in gross voted expenditure allocated in the REV. The vast majority of this provision relates to day-to-day current expenditure, amounting to €59.3 billion, with a further €7.3 billion allocated to capital expenditure.

The current expenditure allocations in REV 2019 reflect Government priorities. Funding for the key day-to-day public services of social protection, health and education combined amounts to almost €47 billion. These three sectors together account for almost 79% of total gross voted current expenditure. A total of €7.3 billion is allocated to capital investment in 2019. This represents an increase of €1.3 billion, or more than 22%, on last year’s outturn. This will play an important role in delivering public infrastructure across Ireland, especially in areas such as social housing, education, including for schools and higher education, healthcare, and transport. Additional funding is being provided for enterprise supports to support economic growth and promote jobs growth in both the domestic and foreign owned sectors. Increased funding is also provided to support investment in areas, including flood defences and climate change mitigation.

I will now turn to some of the key areas. The allocation for health for 2019 is more than €17 billion, reflecting our commitment to supporting our health sector. This represents an increase of more than €1 billion on the amount spent in 2018. Given this level of resourcing, we must continue to ensure that increased resources are matched with higher levels of accountability and transparency.

Housing has also been prioritised for 2019, with an overall allocation to the Vote of €4 billion. This represents a 19% significant increase in year-on-year terms.

This year's allocation to education amounts to €10.8 billion, an increase of more than 5%. This will allow for the recruitment of additional teachers and special needs assistants, and enable a more targeted investment in higher and further education to meet the skills and education needs of the labour market.

An allocation of €20.5 billion has been made to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. This allocation includes provision for the €5 changes in the weekly working age payments. These increases will be implemented over the coming weeks.

In accordance with the revised budgetary timetable introduced at European Union level as part of the two-pack the Estimates for 2019 were required to be published before the end of 2018. In the period since the publication of the REV, my Department has been engaging with the Department of Health and with other Departments on how the increased costs of the national children’s hospital project will be managed within the overall capital allocation for 2019 of €7.3 billion.

The process concluded with the Government deciding last week to make some reallocation decisions. These decisions were made with a view to minimising any disruption in the roll-out and delivery of key projects.

I am presenting Further Revised Estimates to reflect an additional allocation of €75 million in gross capital expenditure for the Department of Health. The increase in the net voted health Estimate is €65 million, as the Department of Education and Skills has agreed to pay in 2019, €10 million of an existing €17 million commitment to higher education facilities in the national children's hospital. As this funding is to come from within the existing overall amount allocated to the higher education capital subhead, it does not give rise to a Further Revised Estimate for the education Vote. The increase in the net voted expenditure amount for health of €65 million is offset by reductions across a number of Departments and includes a rescheduling of €27 million arising in relation to the A5; a rescheduling of €10 million arising in relation to the national forensic science laboratory; an updating of the scheduled drawdown of €16 million from two Project Ireland 2040 funds which are being profiled for expenditure throughout the course of 2019 and 2020, without delays in project planning, design and delivery. There will be a reprofiling of payments of €4 million under certain programmes of investment in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment; a sum of €3 million from the reprofiling of investment under the flood risk management programme of the Office of Public Works, and a revision of the schedule for the draw-down of funding in the public expenditure and reform and finance groups of Votes, totalling €3 million. There will be €2 million through changes to the timing of payments related to certain capital works by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The changes outlined in the Further Revised Estimates amount to less than 1% of the original 2019 capital budget presented in December.

In recent years Ireland has made much progress in delivering projects on time and within budget. In particular, recent years have seen major progress in improving delivery of water and wastewater, roads and public transport projects. Reforms are being considered which are designed to extend the same levels of professionalism and performance across the public capital programme more broadly. In that regard, it is important to note a number of measures which are under way. They are specifically focused on avoiding a repeat of sudden increases in costs associated with the very largest projects. New procedures are being developed in the context of the ongoing review of the public spending code and the new medium-term strategy for the Office of Government Procurement. In particular, I draw the attention of the House to revisions to the public spending code in the following areas. The Government will not pre-commit to the very largest projects until there is clarity on the final tendered cost. Two-stage procurement processes with parallel working will be avoided in most cases and a better premium for risk will be built in for bespoke projects. Consideration has also been given to carrying out external expert reviews to test cost estimates, as well as to linking advisory firm payments with performance.

Over the course of Project Ireland 2040, there will be total investment of approximately €116 billion in key State infrastructural projects. It is important, therefore, to put in place and strengthen structures to mitigate the risk of capital cost overruns in the future. Adopting these measures will help to ensure the right high level of discipline, professionalism and performance in the allocation of the resources of the taxpayer and the provision of capital projects.

I wish to share time with Deputy Thomas Byrne.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

We all know the origins of and reasons behind the Further Revised Estimates. They are the result of the Government's mismanagement of the process to deliver the national children's hospital. We are well aware that there are many outstanding questions about how we arrived at this sorry state of affairs, as indicated in the Minister's apology to the House last week. When was he first informed of the potential for an overrun which, in the Government's words, crystalised some months thereafter? There have been many meanderings, as well as a great deal of secrecy. Attempts have been made to hide behind freedom of information protocols in relation to unanswered questions. I expect the same procrastination not to be in vogue when PwC looks for information which was not forthcoming when I asked for it recently. There will be ongoing and continued scrutiny by the relevant Oireachtas committees. The Secretary General of the Minister for Finance's Department will appear before one of the committees in the coming days which will provide an opportunity for further attempts to be made on the part of Members of the House to establish if it was the case that in rushing the project in order to maximise political gains from it, the Government took its eye off the ball in the approval process and the contracts associated with it. Obviously, the contracts as negotiated have proved to be porous.

While the information the Minister for Finance has provided says a lot, unfortunately, it does not say enough. The Minister said he was bringing forward proposals on how best to provide for contracts such as this. That pre-empts and is not exclusive from the Government's perspective because it may well be that the further recommendations will be made on foot of the information that will emanate from the investigation. The Minister will be conscious of the questions asked and the answers that will flow back from officials in his Department and others. For example, I asked him last week about the €500 million made available for the project by the European Investment Bank, but I have yet to receive a reply. I expect that a process was entered into with the bank, as that is predominantly the case, and that there is a reporting mechanism between the Government and the bank in respect of its investment. It must be borne in mind that when the bank made the offer originally, it amounted to approximately 50% of the total cost of the project, albeit at this juncture, it is no more than 30%. We will be seeking to establish in the coming weeks and months whether there is a handle on the costs. Have they been arrested and can the Government assure the public and the Members who represent them that it will not bring forward Further Revised Estimates on top of the €100 million in the Estimates before us? It does not stop at that because there is €450 million to be made up. The Minister says that in the spring statement he will give us details of the effect on capital expenditure under the national development plan next year and in subsequent years. I hope that information will be forthcoming.

I have perused some of the detail in the Minister's script. He said €16 million was being taken from the Department of Community and Rural Development and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. It is explained as "an updating of the scheduled draw-down of €16 million from the two Project Ireland regeneration funds which are being profiled for expenditure throughout the course of 2019 and 2020 without delays in project planning, design and delivery." To me, that is gobbledygook. The money is being spent over the course of 2019 and 2020, but €16 million is being taken off. The Minister went on to say €13 million would be taken off in 2019, but he did not provide the details of where. That is the information our constituents want. If the Taoiseach wants to say, as he did in the House yesterday, that we should not scaremonger or give the impression that the knock-on effects of the overruns will be felt in every item of capital expenditure in our constituencies, the Government must prove it to us. From which rural and community development projects is the €3 million being taken? What regeneration projects are affected? Is the €13 million being taken from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in the same area and what exactly does it contain?

Further, there is reprofiling of payments of €4 million under certain programmes of investment in the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Environment. Insofar as the Minister wishes to enlighten us, that is not enough. In the coming days I hope and expect to receive further clarification of exactly what is involved.

There is €3 million from the reprofiling of investment under the flood risk management programme of the Office of Public Works to allow for capacity to be built over the course of the NDP period. What are the bread and butter details of the projects affected? Flood relief and flood management works are ongoing - I am told that they will continue in the future - on the River Shannon in my constituency, but what projects are being lost? What commitments can I maintain when my constituents ask about inclusion of projects or about the knock-on effect?

There is €2 million through changes to the timing of payments related to certain capital works by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Again, a commitment was given by the Government to me and my colleagues in my constituency about an arts centre in Tullamore. It was approved ten years ago, but it has been reprofiled, to use the Minister's word, to cut the cloth to measure. Extra expenditure is needed which we were told was in the offing, but now we are being told that €2 million is being cut from the budget for it. My constituents in Tullamore need a commitment one way or the other in that regard. They have raised between €180,000 and €200,000 for the project. Will they have to raise the same amount again? That is what I need to know and it is what I am expected to know from the details put before the House and its elected representatives.

There are other similar details which we will seek to clarify in the coming days through written applications and confirmations that I would expect to receive from the various Departments or the Minister's Department as the lead Department because ultimately it was his decision based on his consultations with his colleagues in the Cabinet that led to this. Make no mistake, however, this is something that could have been taking place if the information had been brought to us last September. Despite the fact that the Minister did not say something during his consultations with the Department of Health on current expenditure - I accept his word in that regard - I cannot understand how he never asked at any stage how the Department was getting on, whether capital expenditure was on target and within profile or whether he would have to go before the Dáil to rectify the position in the coming year. That question was not asked and in the absence of it being asked we are only now debating the revisions before us. Because of the delay and procrastination I mentioned we do not have the specific details. Therefore, I will insist on receiving and expect to be given minute details in order that we can be straight with our constituents on various projects throughout the country, which is no more than they would expect.

I thank Deputy Cowen for sharing his time with me.

I question the €10 million prepayment related to the Department of Education and Skills which the Minister has said is not part of the Further Revised Estimates. My understanding of the Estimates process is that the Dáil is required to consider the Estimates for each financial year. We have not considered the Estimate from the Department of Education and Skills for the national children's hospital. How is it possible for a Department, without having the Estimate considered by the Dáil, to prepay for something that will be a liability at some point in the future? Will the Minister explain that liability? It was not explained to me in the reply to a parliamentary question I tabled on the issue. What is the liability? What is the contract the Department has entered into that requires the payment of €10 million now? What authority has the Department to prepay taxpayers' money for something it has not received? I have never heard of a Department prepaying for services or capital projects. Should we not have a separate Estimate to consider the issue?

More importantly, because one can always get around the technical details in some way, what are the €10 million worth of education projects that are not going ahead because of the prepayment to the Department of Health? That is a key issue. I believe they are in the third level sector. The Minister will say the money is within the third level sector and can be moved to deal with another issue at third level, but this is being moved to pay for something in the future at third level. God only knows when the children's hospital will be built, given the way the Government is behaving. We must know what projects are losing out because of this and whether the Minister has the authority to move the money which was considered by the Dáil for expenditure this year to meet expenditure next year. Therefore, Members of the Dáil and taxpayers are entitled to assume that the €10 million is being used for projects this year.

I will not take the full ten minutes allocated to me as most of the nitty-gritty of this issue will be discussed at committees. It is unfortunate that we still have not received the details of projects, if any, such as flood relief schemes that will be delayed. We do not know if any of them will be put back. Some €3 million is coming from the Office of Public Works. When the Minister of State appeared before the finance committee last week, he stated it would come from the funding for flood relief schemes. It is worth noting that when he was questioned about the figure of €3 million and whether he thought there were savings he could make in the Department, he was non-committal. However, he did say the figure of €3 million was just given to him by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and that there had been no consultation on whether the amount could be re-profiled for particular projects. I presume it was the same with other Departments, that the Minister drew up a list of moneys which were needed to meet the overspend of €100 million on the national children's hospital project. Will he confirm whether his Department decided on the figures and just presented them to the various Ministers or if there was consultation with them on the figures that were presented to them? Certainly, my understanding having listened to the Minister of State, Deputy Boxer Moran, is that the figure was just presented to him and that he was told to cut his cloth accordingly. Perhaps the Minister might confirm if that was the case in all Departments.

I am inclined to vote against sending the Further Revised Estimates back to the committees, unless we receive a commitment tonight that the details will be made available when we discuss the Further Revised Estimates at the committees. Like every other Deputy, I have tried to get details of the projects that will be affected, but I have been unsuccessful to date. I am sure they are available to the Minister; I presume he knows what projects will be delayed. In the case of the Office of Public Works and flood relief schemes, has the Minister of State, Deputy Boxer Moran, given the Minister a list of the projects that will be delayed? Who knows the details? Unless I receive a commitment from the Minister that the committees will receive these details, I am reluctant to send the Further Revised Estimates back to them. The last thing I want to do is send back the Further Revised Estimates to the committees only for our spokespersons not to receive that information. Obviously, there is a majority on the committees to pass the Further Revised Estimates and send them back to the Dáil for approval. If the Minister can give such a commitment, I will be satisfied with it. Without it, however, I am inclined not to send back the Further Revised Estimates to the committees.

I appreciate that one of the most embarrassing things a Minister for Finance has to do is come to the House to present not just Revised Estimates but revisions to them. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, feels it is not his fault. After all, he gave the Minister for Health €600 million from the back of the sofa for current spending.

The country is now seriously questioning the competence of this Administration. The Government has spent a great deal of time engaging in spin, rather than in managing and problem solving. To some extent, it has come back to bite it and only time will tell for how long it will persist. There are serious problems with current and capital spending in the Department of Health. As others said, the health budget is an omnishambles which is making a shambles of the Government's overall budget. The Government inherited a situation where the previous Government had done much of the heavy lifting and made many of the difficult decisions. The Government was sailing. It is deeply regrettable that this has happened and that ordinary people throughout the country will face the consequences.

The Taoiseach claims that the additional €100 million in expenditure allocated to health in 2019 will not lead to any projects being cut or delayed. This is possible if the Government increases the allocation to capital spending from €7.3 billion to €7.4 billion, but the opening part of the Minister's speech does not indicate this. This is not what is proposed. The Taoiseach is using smoke and mirrors to claim that as the Government is spending €7.3 billion this year, which is €20 million per day, €100 million is only five days' worth of spending and the figures can therefore be massaged in such a way that we do not need to look too closely at where the €100 million will come from. However, we do need to look closely at where the Government is spending money and we need clarity as to where it will cut money that it had promised to spend on other projects.

We see in the Further Revised Estimates some indication as to where the extra €100 million for the children's hospital will come from. Health is being allocated a net additional €65 million. This means that the Department will have to cut €35 million from other investments to make up the extra €100 million that must be spent on the children's hospital this year. I think the Minister can confirm that we are right about this. Where will this €35 million come from? The briefing note we have received does not make this clear, and the Government must provide this information before we can endorse these Further Revised Estimates. I know that it is €1.5 million in respect of the Department of Finance capital Vote and minus €1.5 million on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Vote, plus the €3 million referred to in respect of the Office of Public Works and flood risk management. Where will the Government cut €65 million in allocations across other Departments? The Government claims it will reschedule the A5 motorway to save €27 million. Let us call a spade a spade: the A5 motorway is being delayed. The national forensic science laboratory will also be delayed, saving €10 million. Money to be spent on Project Ireland 2040 regeneration funds will be drawn down in 2020 rather than 2019, saving €16 million in 2019, as referred to by the Minister. To be clear, though, this will add €16 million to the capital budget in 2020. While there might be no delay to delivery in 2019 by simply postponing the payment, this does not conjure money out of thin air. Any delayed payments from 2019 will displace other capital spending in 2020, so when that €16 million is spent in 2020, some other project will be delayed or cut by €16 million to make up for that. This is why we need these Further Revised Estimates - in order that we can call a spade a spade and be clear as to what is being delayed and what is being cut in order to cover the cost overruns on the children's hospital and the shambles the project has become.

I will acknowledge that on page 6 of the Minister's script, he pretty much makes an apology. It is not couched as an apology because his Government does not do apologies or acknowledgements. The spin is that "New procedures are being developed in the context of the ongoing review" and so on. The Minister wants to draw our attention in his nice little speech to the revisions in the public spending code and procurement practices. This is the Department of Finance's polite way of saying, "Lads, we got it wrong, and this is what we are changing." What is the Department changing then? The Government will not pre-commit to major bespoke projects "until there is clarity on final cost", after tenders have been received and evaluated. This is not what the Government did the first time. The script continues: "Two stage procurement with parallel working will be avoided in most cases - preliminary works will not commence until there is full approval of the project." The Minister, with two or three Ministers working alongside him, is saying his Department, over which he has responsibility and oversight, is not doing the blatantly obvious. The script continues: "The budgets for large bespoke projects will include a significant premium for risks so that these indicative costings more adequately reflect the holistic total for the entire project over its lifecycle." I have heard about adding and subtracting but I have not heard about "holistic totals" before. Is this some kind of new karma that Fine Gael has found, that instead of simple adding and subtracting, which gives people the right figures, we are into "holistic totalling"? It also states "Consideration is also being given to carrying out external expert review to rigorously test cost estimates and linking Advisory firm payments to performance." Whatever civil servant came up with this page-long quasi-apology for making a total mess of things, the Department of Finance needs some kind of group discussion, group hug or whatever it is the Department is doing these days and it needs to try to get its act together.

I think the public has caught up with the Government. Right around the country, wherever I go, people are talking about the disaster of the children's hospital. The Government is now viewed as not being competent in spending money. The Minister of State sitting beside the Minister gets on the radio every couple of days to explain why he cannot really do much about insurance costs. He just wings his way through various interviews telling us that whatever he thinks he is doing is working, while the rest of the country knows it is not.

When the Minister comes before the committee - tomorrow, I think - will he actually deal with the figures honestly? We know the children's hospital is a shambles and we know he has made plans to continue it as is. On page 6 of his script, he has offered this four-point change of policy, which is just finance gobbledygook. It is meant not to be understood by ordinary people. What ordinary people do understand, however, is that they and their children cannot buy houses, cannot afford rents if they are in the rental market and are often in precarious work on very low pay. In the meantime, the Government is throwing around significant sums on a mismanaged project on an historic scale. It does not even have the grace to apologise to people who faithfully pay their taxes and to businesses that pay their taxes and make their contributions. They do not pay these taxes or contributions in order that the Government can mess up and then produce a litany of gobbledygook here that is unworthy of both the Department of Finance and those who have the honour to serve as its Ministers.

I asked at the Business Committee, of which I am a member, for this debate on the Revised Estimates, which were going to be just pushed straight to the individual committees. This was according to the Government's proposed schedule of business. I objected to this for the same reasons that the Government very much needs to be held to account for what has happened with the children's hospital. I was not willing to let these Estimates go through on the nod down to the committees, but that is what the Government wanted. It could be argued that the individual line items would be dealt with in the committees but so doing is only one aspect of this process. It was wrong for the Government to propose that Members not debate how it would handle the overspend in the context of the whole picture for this year. The Government should not have proposed this, and I wonder why it did. It wanted discussion to go down to the line items because it would potentially be embarrassing for the Government to talk about how it would manage the overspend in the context of this year's budget.

That is part of the problem that has led us to the mess of the bigger issue of the hospital. There is too much public relations management and not enough scrutiny of detail, of the management of public money or of its importance. We all have a responsibility to scrutinise these matters.

Now that we are discussing expenditure, there a few issues we need to consider. It is not credible for the Government to appear in the Chamber week in, week out, while we appeal for often much smaller sums for this or that project. I sought €400,000 for a service, provided by the Cottage Home, for children suffering from emotional difficulties in Shankill to keep three people employed to serve 50 families. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, however, stated the Government just could not find €400,000. While she agreed that the service should not be cut, she stated she could not find the money. I asked whether there could be a Revised Estimate to find the €400,000 for a service that she knew should not be cut but she replied that she could not do that. Lo and behold, the Government can come up with a Revised Estimate for €65 million for next year and, apparently, it will affect nothing at all. We cannot find €400,000 but we can find €65 million and it will affect nothing.

Could the Minister for Finance honestly blame us for being a bit sceptical about that, given what has happened with the hospital? Could he blame us for finding it somewhat incredible? We then hear speeches and explanations from the Government in the past number of days and weeks using words such as "rescheduling" and "reprofiling". That is spin. The money must come from somewhere. If it does not, the Government must have a load of money hidden down the couch which it can pull out at any stage, or is it a matter of accounting tricks? The Government should tell us the truth. Is it playing around with accounting without consequences? What the Government is saying is not credible.

As for the bigger picture, before the committees get down to the line items, what will be the knock-on consequences for the next number of years? That is not being factored into what the Government tells us about the consequences of the overspend. For this year, it says the overspend will be €100 million, although we have not heard the details of what that will mean for the health sector and we have heard only general explanations of what it will mean for a whole number of Departments. Perhaps the details will become clearer at committees, but what will it mean for multi-annual commitments that will be necessary to deliver on a whole series of capital infrastructure projects that, by their nature, are multi-annual and long term? We do not know but there is not a shadow of a doubt that it will have consequences. Projects that would have received money either will not receive it or will be significantly delayed. If the Government manages the immediate crisis, however, perhaps it can deal with the problem further down the line. That is political management rather than just telling the truth about the consequences of this disastrous overspend. That is the problem.

One can trace the scandal all the way back to the public relations imperative to announce the project and have ribbons cut, which is doubtless what was happening. As a result, the Government does not keep its eyes on the detail. Fine Gael always speaks about financial prudence, fiscal management, responsible management of the public finances and so on, but the public relations imperative overrode the need for basic scrutiny.

Incidentally, I think the Minister is hardworking and I accept that much of the problem predates him. Circumstances have improved, not just because of Fine Gael but also because of pressure from the Opposition. We recently discussed billions of euros in tax expenditure. While it was largely due to pressure from the Opposition, I accept the Government has started to consider it. Every year, billions of euros are spent that nobody examines. Nobody has examined these decisions and they are taken on the nod. In the case of the hospital, the public relations political imperative overrode good governance.

Many questions remain unanswered. What happened to the €35 million that was invested in the design brief before the project was moved to the St. James's Hospital site? I was speaking to an architect who said the basic problem was that the brief was not tight enough. He could not understand how the €35 million that was invested in the brief, which outlines the main components of the project, just disappeared. Some €35 million of the €39 million that was invested in the brief was written off - poof, it was gone. We then heard the figure of €450 million and the contract was signed with BAM. Is it not just bad governance, a lack of scrutiny and a lack of focus on detail that allowed BAM to be awarded the contract? I would like to know which Ministers are responsible for overlooking these matters because there will be consequences for other capital projects. It is the business of Ministers if in the largest infrastructural project in the recent history of the State, or even in its entire history, there is a difference of €175 million between the lowest bidder and the next bidder, particularly when that lowest bidder has a history of significant overruns in this country, the Netherlands and Britain. I cannot believe that nobody knew about it, that nobody was concerned or that nobody examined all the line items and asked serious questions about how the gap could exist.

The Minister referred to the two-stage process. Deputy Bríd Smith tabled a parliamentary question asking why it was chosen and so on. In reply, we received a load of gobbledygook about competition and that the Government believed it would improve the tendering process by making it more competitive. Did the ideological mantra of competition, to which Fine Gael is committed, turn out to be more competitive? No, it turned out to be a disaster. It was nonsense, fake competition by bidders which had a history of underbidding. In the Minister's speech, he indicated that the Government would be more cautious about the two-stage process, that there would be external expert reviews, that there would be a premium for risks and so on. We need to have a serious discussion about what all that means and about what it will mean in practice to avoid these issues.

What about profit? The Minister might give a little information about the profits being made by BAM and the other contractors. I note that Mr. Tom Costello, who resigned-----

I ask the Deputy not to mention companies or individuals who are not present.

My point was only that he resigned. He was the guy in charge of the project board and he resigned. It is in the public domain and has been printed in the newspapers.

The person to whom the Deputy referred is not present.

His name has been printed in all the newspapers and everyone has read it but I cannot use his name. The guy who resigned was previously working for Sisk in Poland, where there was a massive overrun of €200 million on a road project. He had to leave Sisk as a result but he then got the job for the national children's hospital. The Polish Government, however, had told the contractor which overran to get lost and carry the cost. Could we do that? I would like to know about that and why we cannot. Why can we not tell these contractors, whoever they are, to carry the can for some of this mess through profits that they might make?

The budget we approved last October included €7.3 billion of capital expenditure, as the Minister noted. The allocation for capital spending since then has shown a welcome return to investment in public infrastructure. For nearly a decade since 2008, the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Governments kept capital spending below the 2% depreciation rate, which was an utterly disgraceful policy.

The health capital envelope this year is €667 million out of a budget of €17 billion. The resumption of urgently needed spending on national infrastructure makes it even more critical that spending be closely invigilated and accounted for. The escalation in costs at the national children’s hospital is shocking and evidence of a systemic failure by the Ministers for Health and Public Expenditure and Reform. In 2013 the then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, sold the National Lottery licence for €405 million which we thought would be the cost of the national children's hospital. During the Taoiseach's time as Minister for Health, the cost shot up to €890 million. By the autumn of 2017, construction and additional costs had escalated to €1.26 billion. If we are to believe the Minister for Health, by 28 August, the cost had ballooned to more than €1.7 billion.

A few weeks ago the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, informed me about the role of his Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform under the public spending code, the capital works management framework, the chief procurement officer and the Government contracts committee in closely invigilating capital projects. The Minister refused, however, to answer my questions about how and why the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board had sought and obtained a derogation from national procurement rules to permit a two-stage procurement process for the hospital project. He just would not deal with them. That disastrous decision was made in May 2014 and I understand it was reiterated in January 2016 because there was a January 2017 time limit. Given the projected size of the earlier estimates for the hospital project, was that decision approved by the then Cabinet, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and the four person steering committee of the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach and other Ministers in the 2011 to 2016 Government? That is what we would like to know.

The astonishing decision made by the Minister for Health not to inform his Cabinet colleagues clearly would be a resigning matter in most democracies, despite the vote earlier today. The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, could not explain why his management board with its quarterly agenda item of high level risks had not picked up on the cost explosion for the national children's hospital. I looked at the minutes of meetings of his management committee and it is unbelievable that he would not have known what was happening in August and September 2018. We have been following politics at Westminster closely in the past couple of years and there is no question that, if this was the Westminster Parliament, both Ministers, Deputies Harris and Donohoe, would have had to go. Unfortunately for them, they would have had to resign.

Constituents suspect that the Taoiseach and his colleagues intended to call a general election last November. The call was with the Taoiseach before Christmas and it was clearly the intention that the fact that spending was out of control on the children's hospital project would not be revealed until after the general election. My constituents in Dublin Bay North are deeply concerned about further delays and the failure to progress major capital projects in the constituency. A few weeks ago Dublin City Council approved the long hoped for 20-bed cystic fibrosis unit at Beaumont Hospital, but now there are fears that there will be further delays. When we were both in opposition, the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, and I met the management and staff of Beaumont Hospital to discuss the urgently needed new modern emergency department at the hospital. After three years of sitting in the high chair at the Cabinet table, the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, has been unable to get the project beyond design stage. Designers were to be appointed. There are other long promised primary care centre projects in the north fringe, in Belmayne, Clongriffin and Raheny, which are not happening. We heard the itemisation of current expenditure and about what had happened. The Parliamentary Budget Office has been very critical of health spending and accountability for it. The Further Revised Estimates represent a disgraceful failure by the Minister, Deputy Donohoe's Department. Unfortunately, both Ministers should go.

Fine Gael is very creative when it comes to finding money and especially justifying the removal of €100 million from other capital projects by using words such as "rescheduling", "re-profiling" and "adjustments". Let us call them what they are: cuts. If one reschedules funds for a project, essentially one is delaying the provision of funding for that project for at least another year. That is a cut. Not only is it a financial loss, it is also a loss of time dedicated to the project. The people who were to benefit are directly affected by the delay and, economically, when a project is delayed, the economic development of the region is also affected negatively. I would not even call them cuts but daylight robbery. My constituency of Donegal will be affected disproportionately by the removal of €100 million from capital project funding. It was targeted disproportionately during years of austerity and is still reaping the consequences. The trend of targeting the county continues today. The so-called rescheduling of €27 million from the A5 motorway project in Northern Ireland is a dramatic blow. With many others, I have been campaigning for the project for a number of years. The upgrade was badly needed years ago and we cannot afford to have it rescheduled, as the Minister calls it. Will he tell us what the new schedule will be and if a guarantee will be put in place to ensure no further rescheduling will take place, although we cannot know what those guarantees would be worth?

My other concern is the mysterious cuts or rescheduling of €24 million to be spent on other health facilities in County Donegal. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, has not yet specified which health projects will be affected by the need to reschedule the spending of this money. Some have raised concerns that Sheil Hospital in Ballyshannon might be affected, but we do not know for certain. I pay tribute to the board in Limerick for coming out and indicating what was happening, whereas, unfortunately, the HSE in County Donegal was playing the game and covering up the cuts for the Government. I am concerned about other long sought after projects such as those at St. Joseph's community hospital in Stranorlar and the community hospital in Ramelton. People cannot deal with the uncertainty which the cuts have fuelled further. The list goes on.

County Donegal will also be affected by the proposed re-profiling or cutting of €3 million from investment under the flood risk management programme in the Office of Public Works. Constituents are worried that funding will be removed from the flood relief scheme plan for Buncrana which is sorely needed. If it is flooded this year, will we tell them that it was not cut but that the funding was just re-profiled? The Minister has not been able to tell us how the re-profiling of payments of €4 million under certain programmes of investment in the areas of communications, climate action and environment will affect the meeting of Ireland's climate action obligations, both internationally and domestically, and its overall transition to a low carbon economy.

It is always baffling how easily the Government can find €100 million in Departments when it wants to do so, but when it is asked to fund mental health services, the recruitment of nurses or increases in homeless services, suddenly there is no money available. The saddest thing of all is that Fine Gael is taking the money from other projects to cover its inability to manage large-scale projects. That shows an incredible level of incompetence.

Language takes on a new meaning in the Minister's and the Minister of State's speeches on the Further Revised Estimates. It may be more accurate to say their language takes on no meaning. That is the worst message being sent to the people. They can put up with mistakes as long we learn from them. They can put up with waiting if things are done in a just and fair way. The Minister for Finance has said there are no cuts. He used words such as "rescheduling", "revising" and "re-profiling" and told us that they did not mean cuts. If they do not, it begs the question why he did not come in before now, not with reference to the national children's hospital but to address the issue of there being so much scope for re-profiling, rescheduling and revising. Why did he not come here to use that money? My colleague Deputy Boyd Barrett mentioned money. A lot less money, €70,000, is needed for the Galway Autism Partnership which will go under if it does not receive it. I do not have time to go into the details, but it begs that question. The Minister talked about putting procedures in place. We were told at the Committee of Public Accounts that all procedures were in place. We were told that as we could not rely on the public service, something with which I do not agree, private people were brought in because of their expertise. It beggars belief the Minister is coming forward and telling us that this will not happen again.

In 2015, before my time, the board appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts and stated there had been "learnings", the lovely word we keep using here. Nobody knows what it means. I never liked the word and it never meant anything to me. In 2015 the board stated there had been learnings from the previous debacle. What really hit me at the Committee of Public Accounts was what had been paid on spin. If the Minister answers nothing else tonight, how can he stand over the payment of €800,000 to a spin company, a public relations company, over three years? Not only that, he decided to renew the contract for a further two years. That brings the figure to approximately €1.4 million. The Minister has come into the House tonight with this disgraceful speech and Further Revised Estimates that do not deserve the name because that is not what is happening. The Minister is continuing to fool and mislead the people, but they will not be misled. The strongest message at doors during the last election was that Members should speak honestly to people, say it as it is, provide services in return for tax payments and stop the ridiculous games with spin companies to mislead people.

I am glad to speak to the motion on the Further Revised Estimates for public services 2019. Quite simply, some of the revised figures are astonishing. I note, in particular, the health Estimates. In 2015 the health budget was €13.2 billion; in 2016 it was €14 billion; in 2017, €14.8 billion; and in 2018, €16,051 billion, while this year it is €16.953 billion. On that basis and with that level of expenditure, a person would think we would see some value for money and accountability. Earlier we debated a motion of confidence in the Minister for Health who arrogantly tweeted today, thinking he was John Wayne or someone else riding into the High Chapparal. He is just punch drunk. He has no experience and is not accountable to anyone, but he will be accountable to the people of County Wicklow, where, please God, he will get his just reward. He is responsible for almost €17 billion in expenditure, for which there is zero accountability.

I thank all of the front-line workers, nurses, doctors, paramedics and cleaners, who go into work every day to try to do an excellent job and a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. They are mistreated and disrespected by the Minister for Health and the Minister for Finance. They were forced onto the picket line in all weather conditions. The disrespect shown to them by the Minister for Finance was appalling. The arrogance is gobsmacking. It is just unbelievable, but there will be a day of reckoning and it might not be that far away. When the Brexit baby falls from the cradle and shatters like a little vase, the Government will have no place to hide. I am not diminishing the importance of Brexit or how serious it is, but the Government and Fianna Fáil are hiding behind the Brexit baby. When it grows up, they will have nothing to hold in terms of the confidence and supply agreement. As I said last week, it is all supply and no confidence, as we saw again tonight. Six minutes before the vote was called the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, was goading the Opposition.

He did. It was a disgrace.

He was goading the Opposition, on which the Government is depending on for the confidence and supply agreement. Does he have any respect for Teachtaí Dála who are duly elected? To be fair to him, he is not normally like that. I knew his predecessor, an Teachta Sheehan, who was a grand old man. Deputy Jim Daly is reasonable and I believe he is making efforts to deal with the appalling mess in mental health services and under the so-called A Vision for Change, but he was goading the Members who were going to vote with him six minutes later. I never stood in a polling station, when we were allowed to stand near them, to canvass and goad someone who might have been going in to vote for me. Such arrogance is breathtaking. I do not know who wrote the script for the Minister of State, as he is not normally like that. It was the spin doctors and the Government has so many it cannot account for them.

With that level of expenditure a person would think there would be some realistic accountability. Instead, we have one of the most dysfunctional health services in western Europe. The situation is no better when we look at the Further Revised Estimates for housing. Some €3.95 billion has been spent, yet there are still record levels of child and family homelessness and everything else.

Last week I said the Minister for Health could not run a sweet shop. The Government could not run the reception desk in any run-down hotel. It is fruitless, toothless and useless, which I hate saying to the Minister and the Minister of State. I have nothing personal against them, but they are so inexperienced and inept in dealing with and tackling the problems in the country that it is not funny. The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, should know something because he comes from County Wexford in rural Ireland. I would not expect the city slickers to know anything because all they think about is Dublin and to hell with anybody outside the Pale. I would expect no better from them. I dealt with the Minister for Finance at the talks on the programme for Government when I saw his breathtaking arrogance.

No, bhí me ann.

The Deputy should not get personal.

I am not being personal.

I am just saying that after 25 or 30 days when he came in with a programme for Government, he slapped it down in front of us and said, "Read that. You have three hours to come up with a decision. Back us or else." Unfortunately, some people did back them, but it will prove to be expensive because it is not possible to write a blank cheque for anyone. However, that is what happened.

People want houses, but the Government will not allow the people who want to build for themselves to do so because of its 2040 plan. They cannot build houses in the countryside. There are at least ten couples in my small area in south Tipperary who could build their own house and received planning permission with great difficulty, but they cannot receive a mortgage. The Government will not let people who want to do it for themselves to do so and if they cannot help themselves, the Government will not help them. It could not be written in a fiction film. It cannot be done for the want of trying. Is this supposed to represent value for money for the taxpayer?

I have mentioned health and housing, but let us look at another Vote, that for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC. Out of a total budget of €6.662 million, €5.6 million went on salaries - pay the lads and promote them also - wages and expenses, while another €500,000 was spent on office expenses, probably on tea and coffee. A total of €300,000 was spent to pay consultants. I ask, in the name of God, how can the Minister sit there and allow this charade to continue? There are consultants for everything and enough advisers. The Government might as well get them to make the tea and coffee because they would be more useful doing that, rather than giving advice because they give the Government the advice it wants them to give. It is the same in the case of the national children's hospital. The Government should bring in forensic construction contract consultants – I hate using that term – from Switzerland or somewhere where they have real teeth, who would be fair and not connected or contaminated, unlike most of them here, to give us some results. Instead, it pays a certain company, the name of which starts with a "P" and ends with a "C", €450 million, a figure which will grow because the Taoiseach told us that he has expanded the terms of reference. Therefore, we can be sure it will be €600 million. They are to tell it what it wants to know, what it thinks it can pour down our throats.

Ministers may think the people are fools, but they are not. Thankfully, we have an educated electorate which is waiting for the Ministers. It is waiting for them in the long grass, with a peann luí, a pencil, in polling booths. This is a democracy and the people have a right to put the Ministers out of their cosy bunkers, from which they will be run out quicker than snow off a ditch. Last year the snow came quite late in March and was gone in two days. The Ministers will be gone in a couple of hours. They will melt and wilt away, as they deserve to. I warned them about this in 2011 when Big Phil the Enforcer, the gang and the cabal were here terrorising people. They told us all in rural Ireland that we had dirty septic tanks that were polluting the water supply. He got his answer and fled to the European Union. The Ministers had no place to run or hide. It is worse now because they were given a fair warning and should be a little contrite, but they did not listen, na cluaisaí dúnta. My God, they will be made to listen and will not be back here. They will come back in a minibus which will not be a big one; it will be a 20-seater at most and they deserve no better. Is the IHREC not supposed to be the Government's consultant on human rights? The Ministers do not respect rights, whether human or otherwise. That has many connotations and the disrespect shown is so intimidating. What on earth is going on? When it comes to spending public money, there seems to be no end to it for consultants and it started several Governments before this one. We pay Ministers enough to do what they are supposed to do. They are either able to do it or they are not. If not, they should not hire consultants and spend money like confetti. Last week I called on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to review its instructions to personnel officers in respect of ministerial appointments and cut out the consultants. It followed information provided for me in the replies to several parliamentary questions which showed that at least €6.5 million had been paid for the retention of special advisers and press officers in all Departments since 2017. Are Ministers not able to spell, read or listen? Are they not able to work?

What jobs did members of the Government have before they came in here? They were elected on promises. Surely to God they know something. They have advisers, press secretaries, spin doctors and the whole shebang. They will need more than that when they go to meet the public. They will need skin massagers because the public will unleash vengeance on them for their reckless spending, their disgraceful arrogance, and their inept control. I did not even mention the children's hospital because everyone knows about that. It is a big black hole. It is barely out of the ground and the Government is continuing in the same vein. The Government should listen to the people. It is the wrong decision, the wrong place and the wrong site. The Minister should listen to the sick children because he may have grandchildren himself and they may fall sick. No sick child from any part of rural Ireland will ever go into that black hole.

I was only pointing out, as is put down before me, that debate should be relevant to the terms of the motion.

I believe it was all very relevant.

The Deputy has used his ten minutes. That is fine.

I believe it is very relevant.

We did not interrupt the Deputy. I call on the Minister.

I thank all the Deputies for their contributions this evening. I will provide some figures that did not get mentioned. I will make reference to some of the Government Departments that have been touched on. The capital allocation for the Department of Education and Skills for this year will be €941 million. Last year it was €745 million. The allocation for the Department of Rural and Community Affairs for this year is €138 million. Last year it was €87 million. The capital budget for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is increasing from €1.75 billion last year to €2.1 billion this year. Finally, the capital budget for the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in increasing by more than a third. As I emphasised in my speech, we are seeing a very large amount of overall additional capital expenditure for this year, an increase of €1.4 billion. This represents an increase of more than a fifth on last year. The changes being made in these Revised Estimates have to be seen in the context of that increased spend. The amount of money involved in the changes is a really small percentage of that increase and an even smaller percentage of the total amount of money that will be spent on capital projects this year.

I was asked why I would ask the House to support the passage of these Revised Estimates to committees. Deputies Thomas Byrne and Cowen asked me the details of projects that might be changed. To answer both Deputies, and other Deputies, the reason I believe we will still be able to honour our commitments in respect of key projects is that as we move through every year we experience underspends in our capital programme. That is even more likely to happen this year because our capital programme has grown by so much. Normally the money arising from those underspends is used across the summer period to respond to other issues or priorities. I am doing that now. If I told the House that I was going to increase the value of the Estimates, the charge made by Deputies Boyd Barrett and Pringle that I am able to find money out of nowhere could have real effect. In effect, I would be saying that, at this point in the year, a further €100 million is available that was not available to me when I put the budget together. If I did that the charge put to me regarding pulling money out of nowhere would have real potency, but that is not what I am doing. The total amount of capital spend for this year will be unchanged but we will reallocate that spend far earlier in the year than we normally do.

The reason I am asking the House to bring these Estimates to committee is that the level of detailed questioning some Deputies will have on the matter can best be handled there. The amount of money many different Government Departments are contributing to deal with this difficulty represents a really small portion of their overall capital expenditure. My experience suggests that it is only as we move through the year, and particularly as we move into the summer as that is when our capital expenditure significantly increases, that the reprofiling, towards which some colleagues are derisory although they would be equally venomous if I was to use the language of cuts, and some of the changes that could happen in respect of when payments are made will become clear.

Deputy Boyd Barrett is right. As I have said to all Deputies, I am glad that this debate has happened because it has allowed me to point to the fact that the overall levels of expenditure in these Revised Estimates are far higher than we have had in previous years and that they respond to the needs for investment that Deputy Boyd Barrett and other Deputies continually champion. If we did not manage capital money within the figures about which I talked on budget day, the Deputies would now be laying the charge at Government that we are able to pull money out of nowhere in order to respond to issues such as that of the national children's hospital, where I have acknowledged things went wrong. We are not able to pull money out of nowhere and, because we are not, we have to make choices. This is why we have brought Revised Estimates before the House. Deputy Burton was right when she put her question to me. I wish I did not have to do this. If I did not do it however, I would face the charge from Deputies who understand this process, as I know all of the Deputies present do-----

It would also be a breach of the Constitution.

-----that there is not integrity in the figures I have put before the House this evening. That is not a situation in which I want to put myself or the House and it is why I ask that the House support the referral of these Revised Estimates to the relevant committees.

Question put and agreed to.