Senior civil servant did not reveal hospital price rise

The Government’s chief procurement officer has confirmed that he did not inform Minister Paschal Donohoe or his secretary general about the cost escalations at the National Children’s Hospital project, even though he sat on its board.

Paul Quinn’s letter to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) comes after the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) earlier this month said that Mr Quinn was “obliged” to pass on such information.

In his letter to the PAC, Mr Quinn said he is “fully aware” of his obligations under the code of practice for the governance of state bodies. He confirmed, as chief procurement officer, that he did not personally inform the minister or his top official, secretary general Robert Watt, as to the cost escalations.

“I did not inform either the minister or the secretary general of that department as I was satisfied that the National Pediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) was addressing the matters and reporting to both the HSE and the Department of Health,” he wrote to PAC members.

He said he did not tell Mr Donohoe because he was and is satisfied that the cost issues which developed over the summer and autumn of last year “were being appropriately addressed by the board and its chairman”.

In his letter, dated February 25 and seen by the Irish Examiner, Mr Quinn said he was satisfied the HSE and the Department of Health, as the funder of the hospital, were aware of the issues given their “integration into the committee structure” of the hospital.

He said he was also satisfied that the issues were being communicated on an ongoing basis both to the HSE and the Department of Health through the reporting and governance arrangements established.

Mr Quinn also said he accepts he should have disclosed that he sat on the board of the hospital in a letter to the committee in January.

“I accept in hindsight that I should have advised that I was a member of the NPHDB having been appointed in a personal capacity by the minister for health in 2013.

“My work on the board is separate and distinct from the Office of Government Procurement’s role in the project,” he wrote.

Earlier this month, C&AG Seamus McCarthy said Mr Quinn was obliged to pass on concerns about the project to Government ministers if he felt they were not being addressed.

The Government has been dogged by controversy as to how the cost of the hospital rose from an estimated €800m in 2014 to the current figure of €1.73bn.

The Government only became aware of the final figure last November, despite concerns being flagged months earlier by the hospital board.

Labour TD Alan Kelly, speaking at the PAC, said Mr Quinn “should have been reporting the ongoing issues with the cost overruns” to ministers or senior civil servants.

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