David Gunning, chief officer of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB), also said it has “no expectation” that construction of the new hospital on a 12-acre site at St James’s campus in Dublin will be completed by August 2022 as planned.
He added that the multimillion-euro budget for the project was under “considerable pressures”.
Mr Gunning was one of a number of representatives providing an update on the construction of the new hospital to the Oireachtas health committee on Wednesday.
He told TDs and senators: “The contract date for the completion is August 2022 but it’s absolutely fair to say that we have no expectation at this time that date will be fulfilled.”
We are withholding 15% of monies certified for payment every month to the contractor
He added that in the absence of a completion programme from the contractor it remained a “challenge” for the development board to say when the build will be completed.
Mr Gunning said it was still operating within the approved budget of 1.433 billion euro for the hospital but the delay in construction would impact costs.
“We’re currently operating within that budgetary scope but it’s fair to say that there are considerable pressures on that particular budget,” he said.
“As of right now we have over 600 claims for a total amount of money which is in excess of 200 million euro.”
Before Covid-19 Mr Gunning said there was already a six-month delay in construction.
Since then the Government’s public health guidelines restricting construction caused a delay of a further seven weeks. When construction was permitted to recommence from May 18, Mr Gunning claimed the main contractor, BAM, “did not open the new hospital construction site for a further seven weeks”, despite work on other construction sites resuming.
“Despite ongoing engagement with the main contractor, we are still without a valid works programme that is in line with its contractual obligations and we are addressing these issues via the mechanisms allowed to us within the contract.
“We are withholding 15% of monies certified for payment every month to the contractor.”
Asked by Sinn Fein’s David Cullinane whether the development board considered “pulling the plug” on the contract with BAM, Mr Gunning said when the contractor had “failed to resume” works when Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted, the board had reviewed “all the options open to it from engagement with the contractor right through to the termination option”.
Despite repeated pressure from TDs and senators to give an estimated completion date, Mr Gunning told the committee he could not give a revised timeline, but added that, “as an indication” in financial terms of how far behind the project was, payments to the contractor were about 43% below what had been projected.
He said it would be early next year before he would be in a position to project when the hospital would open.
Mr Cullinane said the project was a “mess” and “bogged down in delays, controversy, escalating costs”.
“It’s a very, very messy situation where it seems relationships have completely broken down between the contractor and the board, to the point where the board was considering terminating the contract, so this is a deeply unsatisfactory situation,” he said.
Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall accused the board of the new hospital of being “delusional” when Mr Gunning told the committee the board was working to the original timelines.
“The board is delusional, you’re deluding us as well here, and the taxpayer. It’s not acceptable given the evidence that’s there at the moment which you’ve outlined yourself to talk about working to the original date,” she said.
NPHDB project director Phelim Devine told the committee that construction had progressed on site, but at a “slower pace” than expected.
“Across the 12-acre site, the excavation piling and the structural frame to the underground basement for campus-wide facilities management, energy centre, and the 1,000-space underground car park are complete,” he said.
He added that by the end of 2020 the building will be topped out to level 4 across the majority of the site.
He also said that as of last week BAM had 1,000 people working on site, but that if the contractor had been operating to the timeline as originally envisioned they would have been “up around the 1,600 mark”.
He expected there to be about 1,900 on site by the middle of next year.