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National Children’s Hospital – Misuse of Irish Taxpayers Money

Today, during ‘Leader’s Questions’ in Dáil Éireann, Tipperary Independent Deputy Mr Michael Lowry directed very pertinent questions at the Fine Gael Taoiseach Mr Leo Varadkar, regarding the ongoing controversy surrounding the National Children’s Hospital’s cost overrun, which he rightly stated, has the ordinary working Irish person questioning what they observe as the misappropriation and total misuse of public funding.

Independent TD Mr Michael Lowry addressed Taoiseach Varadkar as follows: “Taoiseach, the most recent controversy regarding the National Children’s Hospital cost overrun has the ordinary working Irish person questioning the misuse of public monies.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has been engaged by the Government to explain this gross miscalculation. I am curious to understand what procurement procedure was followed to appoint this firm. You could argue that a conflict of interest exists because of the fact that PwC received in excess of €30 million in fees over the last 9 years for audit and related work with BAM. Taoiseach could you explain why the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C & AG) was not utilised as the watchdog to carry out this function considering their statutory remit is to improve the use of public money and resources and strengthen public accountability.

Is it the case that the C & AG is not adequately staffed to provide this resource?  Why are we farming out so much of our Public Service work to a small select group of accountancy and legal firms? Is it accurate to contend that the Public Service no longer has the talent and expertise to conduct such onerous exercises?

At a time when many Irish households struggle with every day costs like childcare, mortgages, rent and insurance; there is a strongly held sentiment on the ground that public monies are being squandered with unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. Growing numbers of quangos and committees of review are established, yet no one is held responsible for costly decisions.

In 2011 both Fine Gael and Labour separately promised to abolish or merge many dozens of what they described as wasteful State agencies. Fine Gael listed 145 quangos, which would be terminated when they came to power. While a total of 62 were terminated from 2011-2017, as many as 40 new agencies have been created, 14 of which involve the merger of old agencies. We now have an estimated 257 quangos in existence, at enormous cost to the exchequer. It is ironic that their existence creates further distance between the Minister or Department in question when policy issues, controversy or blame arises. The quango culture is very much alive and thriving…at a growing cost to the Irish Taxpayer, while at the same time, diminishing even more, the responsibility of the Minister or the Department involved.

In regard to review and due diligence case load, the State should look beyond the top companies in the Services Sector. Lucrative engagement contracts should be extended to less well known firms who have the competence to conduct the work.

Proper due diligence carried out on the allocation of public monies would result in substantial and genuine market competition and would safeguard taxpayers’ money. The nurse’s strike and the widespread support it’s receiving further evidence a growing dissatisfaction amongst front-line public sector workers. Middle Ireland continues to be squeezed financially.

We have money to spend on the top professional accounting and legal firms; money to spend on creating quangos and agencies; money to spend on ever changing costs of new builds; yet we had nurses taking to the picket lines last week, causing huge backlogs in our already overburdened health service.

The cost of administering the State together with so much unaccountable allocations of public monies, is infuriating for a hard pressed workforce.

Taoiseach what measures will you take to reign in the excessive cost of public administration. What measures will you take to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest arising between bodies under scrutiny and those being engaged to carry out the due diligence. Middle Ireland needs to feel that they are getting value for money, but, in reality the fear is that huge amounts of our hard earned money is being spent on the existence of ineffective agencies and quangos.”

You can watch HERE, Deputy Lowry’s questions and An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s reply.

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