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Department of Public Expenditure & Reform must come before PAC – O’Brien

22 January, 2019 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Public Expenditure & Reform Jonathan O’Brien TD has called on the Public Accounts Committee to request the attendance of the Secretary General at the Department of Public Expenditure.

Speaking today, the Cork North-Central TD said:

“The procurement fiasco and cost overrun at the National Children’s Hospital is set to blow a hole in the capital budget of the Department of Health and compromise the completion of vital capital projects in the next several years.

“While the Department of Public Expenditure may evade the requests of the Health Committee, it is now incumbent on the Public Accounts Committee to scrutinise its role in the Children’s Hospital scandal.

“The role of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and its General Secretary, is to supervise government procurement, capital planning and manage public expenditure.

“Given the scale of the predicted overrun at the National Children’s Hospital, which could inflate to €1.7 billion, it is within the competency of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to account for the procurement process and subsequent overrun.

“Furthermore, given the Department of Health reportedly anticipated overruns in August and brought details of the overspend to the cabinet at the end of last year, the questions arise; when did the Department of Public Expenditure become aware of this, and why did it not feature in the Government’s budget statements and publications?

“For this reason, I have contacted both the clerk and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, requesting that the department’s general secretary attends next week’s meeting.

“If this is not an issue for the Department, it must begin to ask itself why it exists.

“The National Development provides for less than €3 billion of capital spending in the next four years. A predicted overrun of more than €450 million is set to reduce that amount by up to 15%.

“This could compromise and ultimately end projects provided for in the National Development Plan, from the National Programme for Radiation Oncology in Cork to the provision of additional hospital beds in acute hospitals.

“What has become clear, from running health expenditure on volatile tax receipts to the National Children’s Hospital Scandal, is that this government cannot manage the public finances.” 

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