The HSE has been accused of making "eejits" out of members of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after it claimed there was no conflict of interest in the role of PwC carrying out a review in the cost overruns at the National Children’s Hospital.

Last November, PwC provided "high level input" into the decision by the Health Service Executive to allow construction company BAM to proceed with the project, when it became apparent that the cost had risen by €450m.

Two months later, in January, PwC was commissioned by the Government to carry out a review into the cost escalation, for a fee of €500,000.

It has now emerged that the same personnel from the consultancy firm who had provided advice to the HSE in November on its decision to proceed with the project, were involved in the review into spending.



 

At a meeting of the PAC this morning, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, said: "The people were essentially being asked if they agreed with themselves, that is what this is."

She said: "Really, it’s almost like we are being made eejits of now. The same personnel involved, to me, just screams conflict of interest." 

Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry said: "At the end of the day we can't have the contestants judging the beauty pageant." 

Referring to correspondence submitted to the committee last night by the Department of Health, he said:  "There is an effective admission here that the same personnel were involved.

"What worries me even more is that the secretary general doesn't see a conflict, because god knows what is going on in other capital projects throughout the country if this is the case."

Sinn Féin's David Cullinane said PwC should have been precluded from being involved in the review of cost overruns: "There seems to me to be a lack of understanding at best as to what constitutes a conflict of interest.

"If you're going to do an independent report it has to be completely at arms length. I would argue there should have been no involvement in the report itself. Given that they had  a high level role at some point in the process, they should have precluded them from independently examining the process, that is a conflict of conflict as far as I am concerned."

In a submission to the committee last night, the HSE said some PwC personnel involved in providing input into the project in November were also part of the team who carried out the review into cost overruns.

It said there was no conflict of interest.

"Their expertise in large scale healthcare construction projects was highly relevant in both instances," it said.

"We view the 2019 work as being complementary to the November 2018 work and see it as being appropriate that some of the same personnel were used on both occasions."