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Bam Ireland rejects claim it is ‘underperforming’ on children’s hospital

Project mired in controversy over delays and construction costs which are set to top €1.4 billion

A file photograph showing hoardings at the site of the new national children’s hospital. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Bam Ireland, the main contractors of the National Children’s Hospital (NCH), has rejected a claim that it is underperforming in its work on the project.

It comes after a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting at which it emerged that the NCH may not open its doors to patients until 2024 as the project is behind schedule.

The Dáil’s spending watchdog also heard allegations from the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) that Bam is “underperforming” and that the builders have made claims for additional costs of around €300 million.

NPHDB chief executive David Gunning also said there was an underspend on the project in 2019 and claimed it is due to the main contractor not advancing the construction due to “under-resourcing”.

He alleged this is “a situation that has been in place since the beginning and which continues today”.

Mr Gunning also said that the NPHDB is withholding 15 per cent of monthly certified payments until it is provided with a programme of works that is complaint with the contract.

The NCH project has been mired in controversy over delays and construction costs which are set to top €1.4 billion.

The final sum – including the hospital’s fit-out – is expected to be more than €1.7 billion and there are concerns that it will be higher.

Bam Ireland released a statement on Wednesday morning saying it would like to address a number of matters discussed at the PAC.

The statement says: “BAM rejects any accusation that it does not resource the project correctly or is underperforming.

“It ensures at all times that the project is fully resourced according to existing agreed work based on approved designs, and with maximum numbers permitted under constraints of current Covid public health restrictions which obviously have an impact on working conditions.”

Bam Ireland claimed that the main driver of delays and claims in relation to the project “has been and continues to be the lack of a fully complete, co-ordinated design for the project”.

The statement added: “This has still not been received and new amendments are being added all the time.

“These amendments result in, for example, requirements for additional materials, changes to quantities and specifications on materials, changes to entire work programmes on site and scheduling of teams of subcontractors.”

Bam Ireland said that the contract requires it to notify the NPHDB “of every event which might give rise to an additional cost or a delay, or lose its entitlement”.

The statement says: “There have been almost 10,000 new drawings (including Mechanical and Electrical drawings) since GMP [guaranteed maximum price] stage in January 2019.

It says: “The Board also seeks to strictly enforce contractual provisions which result in replicating the same notification across a number of different areas or in successive months although it is essence the same notification.

“A number of these are being reviewed by the project conciliator and we would hope the process to be streamlined.”

The statement adds: “In this light it is hardly surprising that there are hundreds of notifications from Bam and its major subcontractors of potential additional costs/delays.”

It also claims that the impression was given that Bam had no work programme and adds: “Bam has submitted several programmes and has updated them every month tracking actual versus planned progress.

“Each programme submitted, including the current one, has a specified predicted end date.”

The statement says: “The client is maintaining that for technical reasons (some related to Covid) the programme has deficiencies which makes it ‘non-compliant’.

“Bam disagrees and is satisfied that the programme as submitted is more than what is needed to monitor progress.

“The current programme submitted by Bam has over 27,000 activities which incorporate the latest design information.

“This compares with an accepted compliant programme at Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) stage in January 2019 which had approximately 16,000 activities.”

The company adds: “Bam and its contractors are committed to delivering this vital piece of national infrastructure as quickly and efficiently as possible provided the current difficulties can be overcome.

“Significant progress is currently being made and we are fast approaching the ‘topping out’ of the project where construction will have reached its highest point”.

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, the NPHDB reiterated claims it made at the PAC.

It also argued that there has been “no material change” in the design of the new children’s hospital since the GMP was agreed with the contractor in December 2018.

“The ‘Issued for Construction’ drawings were completed in Q3 last year to reflect the building structure, mechanical and electrical and architectural fitout encompassing circa 6,000 rooms/spaces within the building.

“What remains are updates following clarifications on site during the completion of the build that would be normal in the construction industry to take into account the coordination between design and exact product specifications.

“This is the co-ordination between the construction which is the responsibility of the contractor and the design which is the responsibility of the NPHDB.

“It is standard practice within the construction sector that drawings cycle through a revision process that can only occur after GMP - once everyone is on site.”

The NPHDB claimed that the lack of advancement on this project is primarily due to under resourcing on the project by the main contractor - a situation that has been in place since the beginning and which continues today.”

The statement added: “The NPHDB remains committed to working with the main contractor to ensure the hospital is delivered within the shortest timeframe possible.

“We are all aware of how badly this hospital is needed by children, young people, families and staff. Despite the Covid-19 constraints, work is progressing on site.”