TDs hit out at failure of Children's Hospital board member to attend meeting of Dáil spending watchdog

MEMBERS of the Dáil’s spending watchdog have hit out at the failure of a senior civil servant who sits on the development board of the National Children’s Hospital to appear before them to answer questions on the spiralling costs.

The government’s chief procurement officer Paul Quinn was asked to attend today’s meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) but he is not among the officials that have been brought by Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) secretary general Robert Watt.

Mr Quinn sits on the board of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB).

Questions have been raised about his involvement in the NCH and why he didn’t tell DPER and minister Paschal Donohoe about the escalating costs.

DPER has previously defended him saying he is on the board in a “personal capacity”.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said Mr Quinn’s absence is “very dissatisfactory” and he complained that the committee only learned last night that Mr Quinn wasn’t attending.

He also criticised Mr Watt’s opening statement which ran to 18 pages discussing major capital projects but does not mention the NCH where costs have risen €450m to €1.4bn.

Mr Cullinane said he is “deeply disappointed” Mr Quinn did not attend. He said TDs prepared to ask him questions and “he should be here”.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry agreed with Mr Cullinane and claimed that there’s a view in the civil service that the PAC are “pesky politicians” who have the effrontery to ask how public money is spent.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said she had requested Mr Quinn’s attendance and said it was entirely in the PAC’s remit to ask questions of him. She said the NCH controversy showed “failures of process”.

She said it would have been “enormously helpful” for Mr Quinn to answer questions given his dual role on the hospital board and the Office of Government Procurement.

Labour’s Alan Kelly said Mr Quinn’s non-attendance was bizarre given that he’s on the NPHDB and the PAC can’t ask him questions.

Chairman Seán Fleming said that it was up to Mr Watt which officials he brought with him to the PAC but he was also dissatisfied at the situation. He suggested Mr Quinn should be asked to attend at a future meeting along with other members of the NPDB.

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