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

9:00 am

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Okay, having waited two and a half hours and now getting five minutes, I will ask a couple of direct questions.

Does the Minister believe it is appropriate to use PwC, to which he has essentially batted off the incredible escalation under Fine Gael management on the national paediatric hospital project from €400 to €1.4 billion? Now he is batting off the answers to all of these questions, as well as essential responsibility to PwC, when it has been the auditor of BAM, the contractor at the centre of this issue, for nine years. PwC has received €30 million in fees from BAM. It also works for the HSE. Can we honestly put faith in it to do this task and not fear a serious conflict of interest? This is particularly relevant, given that ordinary people believe they have been had. A company comes in with a bid which turns out to be a gross underestimation of the actual cost of the hospital. The ones who are going to look into how it happened are the same people who audited the company, BAM International, or whatever it is called, for nine years. Moreover, it seems no one was made aware at the time - Ministers included - that there was a gap of €130 million between the BAM bid and the next bid. Were the Ministers made so aware? No one said the gap was a little odd. If it was €10 million or €15 million, it might be credible, but there was a gap of €130 million between the lowest bidder and the next bidder and no one thought it a little odd. That is extraordinary, especially when BAM had a record of cases in which the company had significantly overrun, both in this country and internationally. As that has been well flagged in the press, I do not have time to go into it, but no one raised the need to look into it.

Did anyone do the basic things? For example, in talking about windows, did anyone ask what cost BAM had included for them? What costs did it include for wires, bricks and all of the different components? How did these costs compare to those included in the next bid and the one above it? Was there a significant gap between them? If so, did no one ask whether it was a little odd? I realise the Minister is not supposed to be over every single detail, but the then Minister responsible – it was probably the Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, at the time – should have been aware at least of the difference and the dichotomy between the bids. He should have called for them to be checked and sought a forensic analysis.