As we know, these Estimates were discussed before being put before the relevant committees and are now before the House again for its expected approval. I acknowledge that. It is pertinent that this is happening in the week that the PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC, report was published. In that context I looked up the mission statement for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which is "To serve the country, its people and the Government by delivering well-managed and well-targeted public spending, through modernised, effective and accountable public services".
One would have thought that the PwC report would reflect or confirm that this Department was all over the national children's hospital project. It is the Department charged with responsibility for ensuring that the taxpayers' money is dealt with appropriately, as per the mission statement. However, the Department is only mentioned twice in the report; in the glossary and when the Minister was informed about the overrun after the event. That does not reflect very well on the Department's role or its mission statement. The Department is quick to take responsibility for high-vis jackets and shovels when projects are announced, but it has been twice as quick to hide behind the contract committee, a subcommittee of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board which decided on a split contract.
It was the Minister's job to take on board, analyse and scrutinise the board's recommendation. It appears there was a failure there. There was a failure in the contract committee's decision and a failure on the part of the Minister and his Department, which did not adequately analyse or scrutinise that recommendation. It was accepted verbatim.
The Minister can respond if and when he wishes, but it is patently obvious to me that there was a glaring failure on the part of the contracts committee which was compounded thereafter when the matter was referred to the Minister, as it was his responsibility to adhere to the board's wishes.
I will pick some phrases from the PwC report that leap off the pages. They include "significant failures", "a lack of sufficiently comprehensive or robust planning", "poor at all levels of governance structure", "red flags were missed", "contained material errors and did not adhere to the public spending code", "poorly co-ordinated and controlled", "weak and inadequate", "unstructured", "fragmented" and "lacked key information", yet we have no accountability. It is essential that the recommendations made in the report be implemented swifty and measures put in place to address a further risk of cost increases.
We face into another significant project, another responsibility borne by the Minister, in the provision of broadband. When I asked two questions in recent weeks, I received contradictory answers from the Minister and his colleague, the Minister with responsibility for the project, Deputy Bruton. The Minister said initially that he would carry out due diligence, but now I am told that he is not adhering to his own commitment in that regard. What is the Department's role if it cannot live up to its own mission statement? Clarity is required at this early stage on the Minister's involvement in the due diligence process in the preparation of contracts for the remaining bidder in the provision of broadband. Given what is clear in the PwC report and the extracts I quoted, it is essential that we do not have a repetition of what happened at the national children's hospital. I received contradictory information in the responses I received to the questions I asked about due diligence being carried out by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. That matter must be clarified because the Dáil must ensure the lessons learned, to the tune of €100 million this year and €100 million for the next four years, will have a significant impact on many constituents who expect public capital programmes to be carried out in accordance with what was originally outlined in the 2040 plan.