Taoiseach says hospital overspend probe will target individual responsibility

The Taoiseach has said that the inquiry into the children’s hospital overspend will now assign individual responsibility after criticism of its parameters.

The review, ordered by the Government, initially looked to “establish the underlying root causes” for the spiralling costs.

However, PwC were told they must examine the role and accountability of the parties involved without ascribing blame to any individual.

After days of criticism from political rivals, the Taoiseach now says he and Minister for Health Simon Harris have revisited the parameters.

“This is taxpayers’ money and the public are right to be angry,” Leo Varadkar said on RTE Radio 1 on Sunday.

“We’ve retained PwC to hold an inquiry into this to figure out and explain why the cost increased.”

Asked if he would like to assign individual blame, the Taoiseach said he felt it was unlikely one person could be blamed

“If there is somebody individually responsible, then absolutely, but as I say we may find some of these costs are unavoidable, I don’t think any individual can be held responsible for construction inflation for example,” he added.

“I don’t think an individual can be held accountable for VAT.

“We’ve looked at the terms of reference, and they will be revised to enable PwC to find individuals accountable or identify individuals who made particular mistakes if that is what they find.

“After speaking with the Minister for Health, we’re making that revision to enable the investigation to find individuals responsible if they are able to do that.

“In some cases it may be some of it was unavoidable due to construction inflation, and some aspects of the project changed as well.

“Tom Costello has stepped down, what will happen after that will depend on the inquiry.”

Simon Harris
Simon Harris

Leo Varadkar added he anticipated political rivals would use the overspend to criticise his party.

“I have no doubt that this will be politicised and has been already.

“Lets not forget we set up a dedicated body to deliver this project, they are the ones who have responsibility for it.”

The estimated cost for the new hospital – which will be located on the campus of St James’s Hospital in Dublin – has risen from an original estimate of 650 million euro (£569 million).

A Public Accounts Committee about the overspend heard that it now could not be guaranteed the hospital will be completed for less than two billion euro (£1.75 billion).

The chair of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board resigned on Saturday citing concerns about reputational damage to the project.

Tom Costello’s resignation came just one day after Mr Harris said there would be personnel changes and accountability in relation to the overspend.