Diversion of €10m from forensic lab will not delay completion

‘Something went wrong’ with children’s hospital tender process, Donohoe says

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe speaking tomedia at Government Building. Photograph: Tom Honan

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe speaking tomedia at Government Building. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The diversion of €10 million from the construction of a new forensic science lab to the children’s hospital will not affect the lab’s completion date, officials say.

On Tuesday it was confirmed Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) will be one of the sources of funds which will be used to cover the cost overrun for the new Children’s Hospital.

The cost of the project has risen from an estimated €800 million in 2014, to €983 million in 2017, and €1.43 billion now. Equipping the building and providing IT pushes this bill up to €1.73 billion; this does not include the cost of family accommodation, a research centre, excess construction inflation and any other changes to clinical standards.

FSI, which handles forensic and drug analysis for the Gardaí­, has long called for a new lab to replace their outdated and cramped premises at the back of Garda HQ.

Last year work started on a site in Backweston, Celbridge. The foundation work has been completed but work on the main building has been delayed until the second half of this year as the tendering process is still ongoing.

FSI had originally received a budget based on construction starting at the beginning of 2019, meaning the €10 million can be spared without affecting the completion date, now set for late 2021, Director General Chris Enright told The Irish Times.

“The re-profiling of the €10 million will have no consequence or bearing on the construction at all,” he said. “The commitment I have is that money is still associated with the budget. We don’t need it until later in the budget cycle,” he said.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he remains “fully committed” to the project and that it will be completed on schedule.

Very wrong

 

On Tuesday , the Cabinet agreed on a series of measures to pay for this year’s overspend on the children’s hospital.

Any measures that can cut costs will be examined, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said on Wednesday. But he was adamant that “no major projects will be delayed.” He said “repair works” could be delayed by eight to 12 weeks.

Mr Donohoe acknowledged “something went very wrong” with the tendering process for the national children’s hospital.

“I’m being very clear, something went wrong here. There are learnings that we will have to address in the future,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. “I acknowledge my role in that, we will learn in the future.”

Mr Donohoe said that if one looked at the process, especially the later part of it, “things went wrong, we should have been able to handle it. I accept my responsibility.”

“There is a big issue here that we will fix.” Mr Donohoe said that as minister for finance he has to put his hands up when something goes wrong.

The Government is to examine if companies have been submitting low tenders to win construction contracts and then seeking to increase the budget, as the controversy over the rising costs of the national children’s hospital continues to dog the Coalition.

“We have a real concern that some companies have been low-balling, coming in with very low tender prices to get the contract and then coming back with claims thereafter,” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil in answer to Opposition questions about the children’s hospital costs.

“There are one or two contractors who, quite frankly, I would not like to see get a public contract again in this State,” Mr Varadkar added.

Mr Donohoe defended the Minister for Health Simon Harris, saying that he would have expected him to quantify the scale of the problem before being asked to address it.

Mr Harris delivered a personal apology to the Dáil yesterday for his failure to reveal the overspending concerns in a reply to Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen last year.