Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health

Quarterly Update on Health Issues: Discussion
Quarterly Update on Health Issues: Discussion

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I will ask my Secretary General to give the Deputy some of those figures in a moment. First, could I address three of the assertions made by the Deputy? They concern comments she put into my mouth that I did not make. No word such as "fantastic" was used. The Deputy can be sure that I share the concerns of this committee and the people of Ireland on the scale of the overrun. I am not satisfied about it and that is why I am determined to act in relation to personnel changes, governance changes and the like. I will be led by PwC's recommendations in that regard. I reflected on the Deputy's comments and others in making those terms of reference more robust.

The Deputy talked about a hands-off approach. I do not believe she was here for all of my opening statement, which is fine, but I documented very clearly the very hands-on approach we actually took when teasing through these issues, seeking expert reports and ultimately arriving at a very difficult point for any Minister to be in, that is, a point where a decision has to be made on whether to pause, re-tender or proceed. From me, there was only one decision, namely, to proceed.

The Deputy referred to other projects. It is right and proper for her to do so because people are wondering what will happen to their project in their community, be it small-scale or otherwise, and about the difference that will be made to their health service or, indeed, other projects. It is important to say that 25% of our population comprises children. Some 20% of the Department of Health's capital budget will go towards this project. Some 80% will not go towards this project. We are talking about €50 million having to be found out of a capital budget of almost €700 million this year. We are talking about €100 million across Government out of a capital budget of about €7 billion. Of course one would rather not be in this place but there needs to be a degree of context on this. The Deputy does not have to take my word for the impact but she should take that of the Minister for Finance yesterday. At the committee, he talked about no project needing to be cancelled and how this could be managed. I believe he is proposing to bring a memo to the Government on that next week.

On the awarding of tenders, the procurement process and the like, obviously PwC is considering all the steps. I am not suggesting the Deputy is doing otherwise but we should follow the expert views of those who have procurement and construction expertise and who are going to consider this matter.

I ask the Secretary General, the Accounting Officer, to give any information we have on the figures the Deputy is requesting.


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