Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, Mairéad Farrell TD has welcomed the news that the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Seamus McCarthy, has said that spending on the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) project will now be examined as part of a forthcoming audit, with a special report carried out if necessary.
The project was originally set to cost €150 million but is now estimated to cost up to €800 million.
Teachta Farrell said:
‘I welcome this announcement by the C&AG, as it is timely and necessary. Many people are beginning to fear that the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) has all the makings of another National Children’s Hospital fiasco, where our government tell us how they are going to get great value for money for a project we badly need, then proceed to write a blank check which leaves tax payers on the hook for beserk sums of money, all the while telling us how ‘prudent fiscal management’ is their motivating factor. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.
“I recently asked Minister Donnelly to explain how the projected cost of the NMH had risen from €150 million to €800 million. He couldn’t answer.
“I asked in very simple terms could he explain the variance to budget by expense category. In other words, I queried in accounting terms could he outline those areas where costs have increased drastically. Had salaries, wages and compensation levels increased? Were borrowing costs rising? Was there some unforeseen professional/consultancy fees incurred? But no answer could be given.’
“So if he doesn’t know if these costs have increased, how does he know the final projected cost has risen to €800 million? If he knows the final cost is now projected to be €800 million why can’t he give a breakdown of those areas where there has been cost inflation? This doesn’t stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.
“The Minister is deliberately trying to obfuscate and this wanton disregard for transparency and accountability of public funds is corrosive.
“From the rollout of the National Broadband, the new Children’s Hospital or the new NMH, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are brilliant at spending other people’s money. Unfortunately for taxpayers this usually ends in farce, failure and fiasco.
“I am now calling on Minister McGrath to outline what is going on with the NMH when the Dáil returns. He is the Minister for Public Expenditure and, for big capital projects like this, he holds the power of the purse. If Minister Donnelly is unwilling to explain this rising costs then the Minister with ultimate responsibility for public funds must step forward.”