New national forensic science lab impacted by cost overrun at children’s hospital

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe outlined where €99m will come from this year to shore up new hospital project

 Minister for Finance   Paschal Donohoe said the government will now no longer pre-commit to major bespoke projects until there is clarity on tendered costs.  Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the government will now no longer pre-commit to major bespoke projects until there is clarity on tendered costs. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

Plans for a new National Forensic Science Laboratory will be among the projects impacted by the government’s decision to divert funds to the new National Children’s hospital.

The project, which has been at the centre of controversy since it emerged costs for the development have escalated and it is now expected to cost at least €1.7 billion, was discussed at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Following the meeting the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe outlined details of where the €99m necessary this year for provision of the new hospital will come from and the projects which will be impacted as a result.

He confirmed all projects and programmes across government departments had been examined to see where funding would come from.

A total of €27 million will be realised from “re-scheduling” in relation to the A5 Derry to Dublin motorway.

Another €24 million will be found from savings in the health budget but Mr Donohoe was unable to supply any details of where these savings would come from.

Later, a spokeswoman for the Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the saving of €24 million would be achieved by “delivering some smaller capital works such as repairs and replacements over a longer period of time.”

Labour’s health spokesman, Alan Kelly, has urged Mr Donohoe and Mr Harris to outline exactly what health projects are going to be delayed because of the cost overrun with the new National Children’s Hospital project.

“Paschal Donohoe today announced that €99 million will be taken out of funds already allocated to several different departments, including €24 million from an already stretched Department of Health budget. We haven’t been told in detail what health capital projects will now be left on the long finger for an indefinite period of time,” he said.

“The Government has been sending mixed messages on many long awaited capital projects such as sixty additional beds in University Hospital Limerick. This hospital is consistently the most over-crowded in the State and it is time for Fine Gael to explain whether this project will actually go ahead,” he added.

“I’ll be pressing for both Minister Harris and Minister Donohoe to provide a list of what capital projects are being put on the back burner tomorrow in the Dáil.”

Other funds diverted to meet the hospital costs include:

- re-scheduling of €10m arising in relation to the National Forensic Science Laboratory;

- advance payment of a sum of €10m from the Department of Education and Skills in respect of higher education facilities at the National Children’s Hospital;

- an updating of the scheduled draw-down of €16m from the two Project Ireland 2040 Regeneration Funds, which are being profiled for expenditure throughout the course of both 2019 and 2020 without delays in project planning, design and delivery;

- re-profiling of payments of €4m under certain programmes of investment in Communications, Climate Action & Environment;

- €3m from the re-profiling of investment under the Flood Risk Management Programme of the Office of Public Works to allow for capacity to be built up over the course of the NDP period;

- revision of the schedule of drawdown of funding in the PER and Finance Groups of Votes totalling €3m; and

- €2m through changes to the timing of payments relating to certain capital works by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with full project delivery scheduled across both 2019 and 2020.

Mr Donohoe said “where projects are, due to external issues, paused such as in the case of A5 motorway in Northern Ireland, we moved those currently unused funds to where they are needed now. Where the timing of drawdown of payments could be updated without jeopardising the pace of project planning, design and delivery, we have made adjustments to ensure that the much-needed National Children’s Hospital will be delivered”.

Mr Donohoe also said the government was also going to speed up the reforms to its public procurement process which were put in train as part of Project Ireland 2040.

“Government will now no longer pre-commit to major bespoke projects until there is clarity on tendered costs. The Government will approve major projects to be evaluated and designed, but there will no final commitment until after the tendering process is complete,” he said.

“ In the future, the budgets for large bespoke projects will include a significant premium for risks so that these indicative costings more adequately reflect the holistic total for the entire project over its lifecycle,” he added.