Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Bill 2017: Second Stage [Private Members]
Like everyone else in the country I am very disappointed with what has happened with the children's hospital. As Deputy Collins said, we had a motion here before anyone else, back in 2017. The people that are now jumping up and down about the projected cost of the hospital did not support us. Only 18 Deputies voted for our motion. We told everyone that it would go over budget because we understood what was going on and what was going to happen. It has done so more than we imagined in our wildest dreams.
Now the Minister of State is saying it will be good value anyway because we will have a hospital. He does not care. He does not care because he is not paying for it. He did not have his eye on the ball and neither did the Minister for Finance. All last year the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, was watching the abortion issue and making sure it would be available by 1 January. He did not give a tuppenny damn about the hospital or anything else in the health sector, like the waiting lists or the people we take up to the North. They would go blind if we did not take them up and we are glad to be able to do so to ensure that in the last days of their lives they are able to look around and see the world. If they were depending on this Government they would all be blind. Some 25 buses have gone up and we are taking three more next month.
There is a whole lot wrong with the tendering process, whether it is for public or private procurement. There is no law and order in this country. As far as I understand it, five companies qualified through the pre-qualification process which required them to have a certain turnover. Out of the five, only two were interested. They were able to talk among themselves and decide what price to quote. That is what happened here and that is what happens with a lot of the bigger projects around the country. Then we have small companies. I am talking about the small companies around the country that are out every morning working for the bigger companies. They do not get paid the money they are owed and they go wallop. So many contractors around the country were caught, especially in Kerry. One contractor went down for €20 million. He caught hundreds of small contractors that did their work honestly, provided the men and machines and did the work. Lo and behold, the contractor went into receivership, examinership or whatever it is. That contractor is working again, but the small fellows never got their money. That is not law and order.
I can go back to 2009. It could be construed that I have a conflict of interest because I got caught as well. We looked to the Director of Corporate Enforcement. What did he do for the people? He did nothing. He did nothing for the small fellows who lost their money. It was everything to some of them. Some of them went down and never came up again. I struggled in 2009, 2010 and 2011 because I got caught for a massive sum of money by these fellows as well. We told the Director of Corporate Enforcement what assets the principal contractor had. The Director of Corporate Enforcement did nothing at all. He left the people stranded. He is supposed to be a pillar of law enforcement in our country. The Director of Corporate Enforcement did nothing for the people of Kerry and elsewhere who were caught at that time. There is an awful lot of work to be done to ensure proper and fair procurement processes in our country. They are not in evidence at present.
Some State bodies now look for tenders on a five-year timeline. In all fairness, how can any small contractor look into a magic ball and decide what it will be able to work for in five years? Everything changes, whether it is prices, fuel or insurance. No care or consideration is given to people who work hard, go out in the morning and do an honest day's work. They are forgotten about and are not treated fairly in our country. Shame on the Government for allowing what has happened to the taxpayers of Ireland. It is the taxpayer who will have to foot the bill. I can tell the Minister of State one thing, those taxpayers are angry and they are waiting for the Government. They will meet its members when they come to the door and they will tell them where to get off. The Government has let the whole country down with this debacle and it will be remembered in 50 years for what has happened. The Government took its eyes off the ball. It was interested in abortion and all the other tomfoolery it was going on with. This is where we are now. The Government is letting the taxpayer pay for its mistakes.