Failure to give cost report to PAC ‘deliberate tactic’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) batted away questions about the Mazars report on the cost of the National Children’s Hospital, saying he had not read it for two months. Picture:

Health officials have been accused of failing to provide TDs with a detailed report on the cost of building the National Children’s Hospital before a meeting last week, amid ongoing claims they are delaying access to key information.

Members of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee said the “foot-dragging” was a deliberate tactic.

At the latest PAC meeting, Fianna Fáil’s Sean Fleming, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane and Labour’s Alan Kelly raised questions over when relevant files are being released.

Noting the release on Wednesday night of the Mazars review of the hospital costs — which revealed a 56% increase in the project’s costs between April 2017 and December 2018 — TDs hit out at the delay in publishing the record.

The TDs said that despite asking the Department of Health, the HSE and the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board itself for all relevant financial records at recent meetings, it was not given the Mazars report, which “answers a lot of the questions”.

The report was concluded in late November and given to the Department of Public Expenditure and Department of Health in early December, at which point it was read by ministers and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

However, it was not given to PAC members before the recent meetings, leading to claims the group is being deliberately left in the dark.

“We’ve had to drag the information out from the Department of Health, and others, in terms of the costs,” Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane told the committee. 

How in God’s name did the Department not give us the Mazars report before coming in? The Mazars report nails a lot of these questions.

“The Mazars report highlighted all these weaknesses, and wasn’t given to us until afterwards. It was disingenuous, in my view,” he said, adding it is his belief the apparent delay is “a deliberate tactic” and that officials may need to now come back for “a real meeting” on costs.

Mr Varadkar dismissed questions on the Mazars report at a separate event.

“It’s November since the last time I read the Mazars report, I would have to look over that section again to give you a proper answer... if I am being asked a specific question about a specific report that I read two months ago, I would like to see that again before commenting,” he said to reporters. 

“It would be like me asking you a question about an article that maybe you wrote two or three months ago.”

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