I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his statement, with which I agree.
On Leaders Questions on 1 October I raised with the Taoiseach concerns about the escalating costs at the national children's hospital. He undertook to reply to me. Last week, I received his written response, which again clearly points to escalating costs at the national children's hospital. It is all a far cry from April 2016, when the Taoiseach, then Minister for Health, announced that the hospital would cost €650 million all-in. Those costs increased year by year and the current Minister for Health had to apologise to Deputy Barry Cowen in the Dáil for misleading information about those costs. As the Taoiseach said in his reply to me, the guaranteed maximum price established through the two-stage tender process does not provide a contractual ceiling on cost and significant residual risks remain of additional further costs. These include the risk of construction inflation in excess of 4% which are allowed by the contract to be recovered.
We also learned from the Taoiseach's response and from the August minutes that the main contractor has submitted claims to the board, which I understand to be quite significant as well. For some reason, ICT is not covered in these costs, neither are the costs associated with the children's hospital integration programme. I suggest that is designed to reduce the overall cost for appearances and so on. I ask the Taoiseach to give me specifics on the costs of the ICT programme and the integration initiative.
The Taoiseach will recall that PwC's report on the construction of the new children's hospital was a shocking indictment of a badly-managed project. Critical phrases leap off the pages of that report, such as "Significant failures" and the "lack of sufficiently comprehensive or robust planning". The report said the understanding of the risk profile was "poor at all levels of the governance structure" and that "red flags ... were missed." The report said the business case: "contained material errors and did not adhere to the Public Spending Code." It also described the execution as: "poorly coordinated and controlled."
We have learned from the August minutes, as revealed in the Irish Examiner yesterday, that the State's chief procurement officer, Mr. Paul Quinn, who appears not to have alerted the Government to the original spiralling costs of the hospital, has resigned from the hospital board. This follows the resignations of Mr. Tom Costello and the project director, Mr. John Pollack. The minutes state that all we have at the moment is "a best estimate" on the overall cost of this project and that a significant increase in financial claims is being made by the contractors at the Dublin site, about which the board is very concerned. Can the Taoiseach indicate to me why Mr. Quinn has resigned? Does he know something the rest of us do not? How robust are the procedures, given the resignation of the chairman, director and the State procurement officer? Would the Government agree to an oversight mechanism from the Oireachtas to rigorously monitor the costs of this project, given its capacity to devour the health capital budget and delay and perhaps prevent other badly-needed projects from developing?