This is the Public Accounts Committee’s sixth periodic report and it focuses on matters arising from our meetings with Government Departments and Public Bodies between December 2018 and March 2019.
On behalf of the Committee, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who participated in the hearings and to those who provided detailed briefing to assist the Committee in its deliberations. I would also like to express my appreciation to the members of the Committee and the Secretariat for their work in relation to the Committee’s consideration of the issues and preparation of this report.
Today the Public Accounts Committee makes 36 recommendations covering the 10 chapters in this report and I will now highlight some of these.
The system for gathering information by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in relation to housing provision is not satisfactory. The Committee recommends that the Department immediately improves the system to provide comprehensive information in respect of all housing provision and that this information is published on a monthly basis.
The Approved Housing Body Interim Regulatory Committee has increased the oversight of the sector that is within its remit. However, given that the code is voluntary and non-statutory, its powers are limited. The Committee recommends that statutory regulation for Approved Housing Bodies and their assets is established without delay to ensure standards, consistency and financial oversight of the State’s investment in this sector.
It is unacceptable that significant changes resulting in a major escalation of estimated costs for the National Broadband Plan were made without a new Cost-Benefit Analysis being carried out. The Committee recommends that a new Cost-benefit Analysis is performed before the final contract is signed to ensure that the full costs, including implementation, are known.
The procurement process for the National Broadband Plan may have partly deterred parties interested in tendering for the project from doing so. The Committee recommends that a review of the procurement process for the National Broadband Plan is undertaken by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to inform future procurement processes and ensure maximum competition.
The potential for a further reduction in the number of premises in the intervention zone of the National Broadband Plan still exists. The Committee recommends that the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment seeks confirmation that the current plan meets and will continue to meet EU State-Aid rules and makes any changes necessary to avoid future increases in cost.
The Committee find it absolutely unacceptable that nobody can give a reasonably accurate estimate of the expected final costs for the completion and fitting out of the National Children’s Hospital. The Committee recommends that in future no contract is signed for a significant capital project without a fully detailed design supported by a proper cost estimate.
The two phase tender process was a very significant contributing factor in the overall cost escalation of the National Children’s Hospital. The decision to bring the main contractor onto the site to complete Phase A before the detailed design for Phase B had been submitted was also a significant contributing factor to the cost escalation of the project. The Committee recommends that the two phase tender process is not used in future for any major capital expenditure projects unless both phases of the project are fully designed in advance.
The sudden increase in costs for the on-going construction of the National Children’s Hospital is extremely worrying and indicates that the tendering process for the project was totally inadequate. The Committee recommends that mitigation strategies are developed to ensure that costs associated with the National Children’s Hospital do not continue to rise during Phase B of construction.
The Department of Health, as the sponsoring department for the National Paediatric Hospital Development project, has not provided proper oversight or ensured coherence on all aspects of the project. The Committee recommends that the Department of Health liaises fully and regularly with the Board, the HSE and DPER to ensure that proper control, oversight and accountability is provided for the remainder of the project.