Delivering children’s hospital on time may be ‘challenging’, warns McGrath

Review of €116bn NDP will see new costs given for large-scale projects

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath says a new national development plan will be delivered next summer that is likely to be larger than the current one. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath says a new national development plan will be delivered next summer that is likely to be larger than the current one. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Delivering the national children’s hospital on time in 2023 may be “challenging”, the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has warned.

Mr McGrath has launched a review of the State’s €116 billion national development plan (NDP) which will see new costs given for mega-projects or large-scale projects such as new roads.

The Minister was warned earlier this year that existing budgets may not cover the ultimate cost of mega-infrastructure projects such as MetroLink, BusConnects and the M20 Limerick-Cork motorway.

He said a new national development plan would be delivered next summer that was likely to be larger than the current one. One of the largest infrastructure projects in the State is the national children’s hospital, the budget for which has significantly overrun and is now estimated to cost close to €2 billion. The building was due to be completed in late 2022 for opening in 2023.

Mr McGrath said on Tuesday that the timeline may not now be achievable.

“That may well be challenging but the lead department here is the Department of Health. We have a hospital board that is directly responsible for the delivery of the project so they may be in a better position to provide any changes from the timeframes.”

He said he had not been told of a “confirmed” change to the timeline nor had he been told about any potential overruns.

“We have a contract in place and the priority from the point of view of this department and the Department of Health is that this contract will be delivered because we really need this hospital to be built as quickly as possible.

“I have not been given any updated figure in terms of the overall cost of the project. While there are certainly challenges, that is undoubtedly the case, from the perspective of myself as Minister, we expect the current contract to be delivered. I have not been notified of any cost overruns at this point in time.”

Larger plan

In relation to the overall national development plan, Mr McGrath said it would run to 2030.

“Given that we are adding three years to the NDP, I think it is fair to assume we are going to have a larger national development plan at the end of this process and while the selection and reprioritisation of individual projects will be done by the line department, we expect it to be done in a manner that is consistent with the programme for government priorities.”

He said each Minister would bring forward an update on the projects in their own department but “in overall terms the existing projects in the NDP will be delivered including the major road projects referenced”.

He said this included the M20 Cork-Limerick motorway which would also be part of the new plan.

Meanwhile, Green Party Minister of State for Public Procurement Ossian Smyth said there were provisions for the State to step away from any project.

“The public spending code has been updated to remind contracting authorities that at every stage when they are evaluating or appraising a project that they consider whether or not the environment has changed to mean that the project should continue to go ahead and that we should not be worried to stop a project sooner rather than later,” he said.