Donohoe denies discussing cost overruns at children's hospital ahead of Budget

The Finance Minister has claimed he only discussed overruns in current expenditure in Health ahead of the Budget and there was no talk around the spiralling cost of the National Children's Hospital.

It comes as it was revealed that both the secretary general and assistant secretary general of the Department of Health were told of a €391m overrun at a children's hospital meeting last September ahead of the Budget.

Under questioning in the Dáil, Paschal Donohoe said: "It is true to say that the majority of our discussions would be focused on current expenditure because current expenditure is where the services are delivered.

"If the matter in relation to the National Children's Hospital had come up in the way it clearly has now, as I have said, the thing I would be asking Minister Harris to do is to quantify the costs which he has outlined he and his Department were doing."

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on public expenditure Barry Cowen said he finds it "amazing" that Mr Donohoe would not have asked for an update on the hospital in the context of the Budget.

You say you were made aware of the extent of this overrun on Nov 19, we are led to believe that the board discussed seismic overruns in June and in September with the Secretary General of Department of Health for example when a figure of €391m was relayed to the committee.

"Notwithstanding your representative on the board didn't remind the chair of the board to contact the line Ministers as is their duty, it would appear that - as of course we were in the throws as you most definitely were of budget preparations - you were well aware of the overrun on the current side in relation to the Department of Health, so much so that you were looking at a supplementary budget to the tune of €600m.

He suggested that when Mr Donohoe became aware of rising costs on the current side, he should have asked similar questions on the capital spend.

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O'Brien said: "There are serious questions to be answered and to be honest I don't think we are getting the answers.

He said the figure of €390m was known on September 19 but "yet nobody seems to have told either yourself or the Minister for Health what the figure was until post-Budget."

Mr O'Brien said this amounted that "serious breakdown of communications" between ministers and their senior officials.

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