It is extraordinary that €51m has already been spent on this project – before any final decision that it will proceed at the Elm Park site
Spending on the new National Maternity Hospital will be examined as part of an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), according to Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall.
The revelation was made in correspondence received by Deputy Shortall from the C&AG, Seamus McCarthy, after she wrote to him expressing serious concerns about the rapidly escalating costs of the project.
In her letter, Deputy Shortall said her concern related to three separate issues – a huge increase in spending in the absence of any final decision on the location of the new hospital; the lack of a business case for the project having been produced contrary to the public spending code; and the apparent failure to consider the requirement for a deep energy upgrade to be incorporated in the project.
“In December 2018, the then government undertook expenditure of an estimated €20m on a new pharmacy, car-park and enabling works at Elm Park, in preparation for the proposed move of the NMH to that campus. In the intervening period, this initial expenditure has now risen to in excess of €51m, without obvious further formal approvals, without clarity about the ownership of the site upon which these building works are taking place and notably without clarity regarding whether the larger project will proceed or not.
“In respect of the requirement for adherence to the public spending code regarding a number of business cases to be produced for a major capital project, no business case at all has been completed at this point.
“It is my understanding that a new National Maternity Hospital, if built, will be required to meet the stringent EU energy NZEB Directive. Because of this, a deep energy upgrade to the building is likely to be required. This will add substantially to the cost of the new building. The hospital was estimated in 2018 to cost €300m. The latest departmental estimate is for €800m for build and fit-out, excluding the energy upgrade.”
In response, Mr McCarthy said his office was currently finalising the plan for an audit of HSE financial statements.
“The plan includes audit testing on a sample of capital expenditure projects and it is intended to examine the spending on this project as part of that audit. Any issues arising from the audit will be evaluated and at that stage I will consider whether there is merit in carrying out a value for money special report,” he said.
Welcoming the announcement, Deputy Shortall said “it is extraordinary that €51m has already been spent on this project – before any final decision that it will proceed at the Elm Park site and in the absence of any business case for such an enormous financial spend.
“We have seen, with the children’s hospital, what happens when budgets for capital projects spiral out of control. We cannot allow the same financial chaos engulf the new maternity hospital.
“This is public money and the highest standards of rigorous financial planning and oversight must apply to every penny that is spent.”
25 August, 2021