Inquiries made into spiraling hospital costs

Inquiries made into spiraling hospital costs

Fresh questions have been asked into the spiralling costs of the new children’s hospital which is set to begin construction in the coming months.

Costs are expected to reach €2 billion upon completion making it the most expensive public works undertaken by the Irish government to date. It is also more than triple the original estimates for the project.

Since September the government began to open up about the spiralling costs and question are being raised about how much the government knew and why the project costs are out of control.

Some blame is being placed on inflation costs within the construction industry itself, this has seen some contactor bids rise by almost 65% reported the Irish Times. Additional cost has been seen in the amount of material that is expected to be required along with additional costs relating to work in two nearby hospitals. Much it seems has either been overlooked or understated.

This has led to some heated exchanges in the public accounts committee(PAC). Questions have been raised against the government and the process in which estimates, and plans have been drawn up for the hospital.

The Department of Health provided a breakdown of the expected costs and this was reported in the RTE.

PAC chairperson Seán Fleming read out the figures

Construction costs:

€14.5m for decanting costs in relation to the site

€5.8m for aspergillosis (Infection control during construction)

€550m for main contractor BAM having risen from 430 million in 2017

€177m for the Jones Group up from €107 million

€157m for Mercury, another contractor up from €89 million

€53.4m for outpatient and urgent care centres in Tallaght and Connolly

€87.9m to equip the hospital with MRIs and furniture

€13.6m for planning and development fees

€13.6m for development levies payable to various local authorities

€71.3m for design team fees

€51.3m as a contingency

€66.04m to cover the cost of running the National Paediatric Development Board Company for the entire course of the project and their legal and professional fees

€18m for the Children’s Research and Innovation Centre

€97m for information and communications technology in relation to computers

€86m for the children’s hospital integration programme, for the integration of the Children’s Hospital at Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght

€52m for a new electronic healthcare records system

Approximately €40m of a write-off paid for the Mater Hospital site, which was the original first option that did not proceed

“Those costs come to €293m, giving a grand total, as of today, of €1.7 billion,” said Mr Fleming.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane questioned the department about possible knock-on effects of the overrun, specifically its impact on other projects which are in the pipeline noted RTE.

He was told that yes there will be adverse effects on several projects but that the department cannot go in specifics about individual cases. Thus, highlighting problems which are bound to arise in

As enquiries and investigations are being made in both the public and private sector it is almost certain that further issues are going to arise. Scrutiny is arising from all sides in government and the public as they seek answers as to why the project has spiralled out of control with no fundamental changes to the design and plans.

Some TD’s looked abroad to Sweden which had a similar budget and the ROI of that building somehting which does not seem to be prevailing here.

With the nurse’s general strike and now this it is not a good time to be a part of the department of health right now.

In regards to additional costs Seamus McCarthy told the PAC  “In 2014 the Department of Health approved a total budget of €790m for the board’s work. As of December 2018, the costs expected to be incurred under the board’s remit were estimated at €1.433 billion.

“However, additional costs will be incurred by other agencies including Children’s Health Ireland to fully equip and commission the hospital before it can get up and running.”

Former Tesco Head Begins Unfair Dismissal proceedings

Former Tesco Head Begins Unfair Dismissal proceedings

Former Tesco head Chris Bush who was recently cleared of any wrongdoing concerning an account and fraud investigation has proceeded to claim unfair dismissal.

The former UK managing director was cleared of any wrongdoing after a judge throughout the case as it was to ‘weak’ reported the Irish Examiner. The £250 million fraud and accounting scandal has been ongoing since April 2015.

Clive Howard, an employment solicitor from Slater and Gordon, said: “We can confirm that Chris Bush issued an employment claim against Tesco for unfair dismissal in April 2015.

Mr.Bush was employed at Tesco since leaving high school at the age of 16  and was receiving a salary of £2.9 million plus benefits in the year 2014. He was immediately suspended along with three co-accused after alarm bells were raised in 2015.

The Scandal

The scandal erupted when Tesco issued trading updates in August 2014 to the tune of £250m. It rocked the market when it later issued a statement in September admitting that the previous set of figures were incorrect. The saga wiped almost £2 billion off its share price at the time noted Alexandra Rogers of CityAM. This was a fall of almost 12%.

The company brought in the firm Deloitte to undertake a review of its accounts in 2014 following the announcement of errors in its reporting. At the time the financial issues were said to only affect the food market within the UK.

An internal whistleblower is believed to have made revelations about Mr Bush and other senior directors within the company at the time of the scandal. Following an investigation, the Serious Fraud Office also became involved in proceedings.

Legal proceedings

Three defendants were later named in an agreement between Tesco and the Serious Fraud Office. The agreement allowed the company to pay a fine without admitting any wrong-doing. However Mr Bush and his co-accused faced criminal proceedings following the disclosure. Details of the agreement were recorded in The Finacial Times.

The DPA and criminal proceedings thus resulted in contradictory outcomes which have put the former directors through a number of years of legal proceedings up to this point. It is most likely something which will be used by Mr Bush and others should they decide to proceed with actions against Tesco.

Mr Bush and John Scouler, the then UK food commercial director, were accused of being aware that profit statements were incorrect in 2014 causing the crisis within the company and towards its stock value.

But in December the proceedings came to a halt when the Judge decided that the case brought by the SFO was not strong enough.

The SFO appealed the decision which it lost.

His co-accused were also set free. A third man, Carl Rogberg was also accused but suffered a heart attack and did not face trial. It is believed he will also be acquitted once he regains his health.

The trial against the pair was expected to last three months.

Mr Bush said: “While I am delighted that my innocence has finally been established, it is troubling that Mr Scouler and I were ever charged’

“Put simply, these charges should never have been brought, and serious questions should be asked about the way in which the SFO has conducted this investigation.” quoted the Standard.

Both men’s legal team have stated their surprise that the SFO had even brought charges against the men. Those accused and their team were quite happy with the result in December.

Richard Sallybanks representing John Scouler, added: “We are delighted that Mr Scouler leaves court today knowing that the judge, having heard the entirety of the prosecution evidence, reached the firm conclusion that he had no case to answer” reported the Standard.

Unfair Dismissal

To help understand Mr Bush’s position we can look at former Tesco Director Kevin Grace. Mr Grace lost his job following events in 2015, however, he was never officially charged or implicated in any wrongdoing.

Mr Grace is seeking more than £600,000 in damages over the loss of his salary and benefits from Tesco reported City AM.

It is not known if Mr Bushs co-accused will take action following their acquittal but it is most likely.

Mr Bush’s solicitor stated about the case, “This was put on hold pending the criminal proceedings. Now, with the criminal proceedings all thrown out, the tribunal claim has recommenced’ as quoted in the Irish Examiner.

“Mr Bush will be making no comment at this time.”

The continuing Saga is probably one which Teso will be happy to finish in the near future, however, it is uncertain whether they will be contesting the cases now brought against them by their former employees.

Tesco declined to comment on proceedings regarding Mr Bush and the other defendants.

 

 

 

 

 

Developers announce new plans for Clerys store

Developers announce new plans for Clerys store

There has been some good news this week for one of the Irelands most famous landmarks, Clerys department store located on the Main street of Dublin. After a number of years of uncertainty and disputes among owners and former employees, redevelopment on the site is to begin in the coming months and breath new life into the street while providing much-needed employment.

Reported in both the Irish Times and the Independent redevelopment will see some of the most famous aspects of the building restored along with a host of other amenities. The new layout will include office space, retail floors and a new 176 room four-star hotel. The development will provide 400 permanent jobs on completion and roughly 750 temporary construction positions.

The developers are tending contracts at the moment and hope to begin work within the next couple of months.

This news should be well received by locals and especially former employees of Clerys department stores. Many of whom were in a long-standing dispute with owners over redundancy payouts and future employment terms, many of which will be included in the most recent developments.

Clerys store closed abruptly in June 2015 having been bought by consortium Natrium. The closure resulted in the loss of 130 Clerys employees and around 330 concession employees who worked on the grounds reported the Irish Times.

Following this, a dispute arose between the consortium and former employees who believed that redundancy agreements were not being fulfilled. This delayed planning permission and setbacks for proposed development in 2016.

The new owners consisting of a number of partnerships including Core capital and Oakmount took possession of the building last year in a deal said to have cost in the region of €63 million, highlighted RTE. It is from this that the new announcement has been made. Details of the development were included in the Independent report, some of the details are below :

Office Space

64,100 sq ft of office space is going to be developed above the retail space in the store. It is hoped this will attract small businesses and new startups onto O’Connell street, something that has been lacking in recent years. Office space will also be made available in the new Earl building which will face North Earl Street

Retail

Spread over the existing basement, ground and first floors of the 165 years old Clerys Building. The retail space is almost exactly the same layout as the previous incarnation of the building and will definitely attract past visitors and new patrons to the iconic building. Refurbishment of the existing façade will hopefully bring back a touch of class that the building has been lacking.

Earl Place Market

In addition to the office and retail offering within the Clerys Building, there will be an exciting new street-level destination for hospitality, food and beverages in the heart of Dublin city centre. Earl Place Market will host some new and exciting food and average destinations. Aiming to draw in local businesses and a few brand names this will be the go-to destination for those on their lunch break.

A New Hotel

To the rear of the Clerys Building on Earl Place Market, a former warehouse is to be transformed into a new 176-bedroom four-star hotel. The hotels will anchor the new Earl Place Market.

All this work will see the building expand from 212,000 sqr foot to 344,000 sqr foot also noted the Independent. As stated already much of the original façade will be refurbished including the famous Clery clock, the Tea Rooms bar and restaurant, the internal staircases and columns and the ceiling. The development is aiming to mix the old with the new and it most definitely sounds like an exciting and promising development.

As much of Dublin has seen a resurgence in recent years post-recession many streets and buildings have seen an upgrade but visitors to Dublin’s O’Connell Street will have noticed a serious lack of development in the area.

With retail situated around Grafton Street and the Tech giants staying close to the Docks it has been a struggle to find a meaningful investment on O’Connell street. Partly due to redundancy issues this news will definitely be welcomed by residents of Dublin and visitors to O’Connell street.

A spokesperson for the group said, “Uniquely located on Dublin’s premier thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, and centred around the restoration of the historic former Clerys department store, Clerys Quarter will combine both traditional elements and modern concepts to create a new city centre destination that will regenerate Dublin’s landmark street,”.

The new development is at the moment being called the Clerys Quarter and is set to be operational by early to mid-2020. We look forward to checking out the new building once it is complete.

Reports show continued N.I unemployment levels

Reports show continued N.I unemployment levels

There was some good news this week for at least one part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland recorded its lowest unemployment rate in almost a decade. This comes in a week where the Brexit backstop agreement regarding Northern Ireland has once again come to the fore.

Will these latest statistics be used for political manoeuvring, most likely, but any shortfall is likely to make little impact upon proceedings in London.

The Norths jobless rate of 3.4% for the three months leading to November 2018 was in contrast to the republics 5.3% and a UK average of 4%. The latest UK government labour market statistics did also highlight the North’s difficulty in finding and maintain EU workers due to Brexit uncertainty.

The statistics suggest a decline of up to 9000 unemployed in the months to November, though this could also be due to a movement of labour.

Although these statistics are positive, the North still lags behind in comparison to other regions within the UK.

Overall employment throughout the rest of the UK reached a peak of 75.8% while in Northern Ireland this amounted to 69.6% of people in employment.

Also, the number of people who are not working and not looking for or available to work rose by 4000 to 327,000 people

According to Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist for Northern Ireland, there is little evidence to suggest that the North has made “any meaningful inroads in getting off the bottom of the regional league table for employment and economic inactivity rates” in the UK.

He was also one of those who voiced concern over the de3clining number of EU national within the workforce in both the UK and Northern Ireland and how this may be due to Brexit.

He noted the opportunities available throughout Europe and the uncertainty which Brexit is creating.

“The latest UK Labour Force Survey reveals a 5.5 per cent year-on-year decline in EU27 nationals working in the UK in July-September 2018. The decline among EU8 nationals [this includes Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Latvia] has been more marked at 15 per cent year on year.” Recorded the Irish Times.

The proportion of people in work has also grown (70%) but remains noticeably behind the rest of the UK (76%).

Economic inactivity in Northern Ireland also rose slightly, quarter to quarter similar to the rest of the UK.

According to the statistics board, none of this is significant but shows a continuing trend within Northern Ireland of economic inactivity.

Tina McKenzie of the FSB has called for action to tackle “stubbornly high levels” of economic activity.

The chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Northern Ireland, Tina McKenzie, said that while the drop in unemployment was “encouraging”, it was important to “keep in mind that our employment rate remains the lowest of any region of the UK” reported the BBC.

“Our stubbornly high levels of economic inactivity, which includes those not in work or seeking employment, continues to have a wider societal and economic impact,” said Ms McKenzie.

“While there are many historical and social reasons for people to be economically inactive, it’s crucial that we tackle this issue head-on.”

As northern Ireland may bear the brunt of any changes brought about by Brexit its important for government leaders to break the cycle of long term unemployment in the North.

However, this looks set to continue into the future as there has not been a Northern Ireland assembly in quite some time and many do not know the implications which Brexit will bring about as of yet.

The Government in the Republic and many government agencies have recently stepped up efforts to offshoot the impact Brexit may have. We already reported this week on efforts by Failte Ireland to encourage diversification in tourism in the border regions by the allocation of almost €5 million to these efforts.

Some of this work includes training staff in operating in new markets, advertising in the US and European countries and generating new ideas to help curb the potential difficulties that may occur due to Brexit.

From reports in the past few weeks the huge uncertainty has been impacting both islands hugely and has clogged up almost all news networks. We hope to broaden our range of reporting in the coming weeks as Brexit comes to a close.

As seen from the report of unemployment in Northern Ireland this historic and continued unemployment record shows no sign of going anywhere fast.

Spokespeople urge for the government to act and help assist those in long term unemployment and generate ways to offset the potential implications of a hard Brexit.

Salesforce set to double number of employees

Salesforce set to double number of employees

Tech company Salesforces is set to double its Irish workforce over the next five years. Speaking this week company leaders highlighted confidence in the Irish market by announcing the jobs in conjunction with progress on their building in the Dublin Docklands.

The 4 building campus is set to be completed in 2021 and will house a large majority of the new workforce. The building will be 430,000 square foot and located in the aptly named Silicon Docks. The area will include riverside paths and open space for charities to use at weekends.

Salesforce has been based here for more than 19 years, the companies announcement is one of their biggest in recent years.

During the announcement at Dublin’s convention centre spokespeople for the company also mentioned the sustainability of the new building and a grant of €1 million to educate together reported RTE.

What is Salesforce?

Having arrived here with a small team to provide bilingual technical support in 2000 the company has slowly increased its workforce to include sales teams and other positions as the market grew both in Europe and Ireland.

Salesforce develops and provides Customer relationship management platforms for businesses across a wide array of industries. They aim to make customer relationships easier for both business and the customers.

Salesforce mission as per their website states ‘Understand their needs, solve their problems, and identify opportunities to help by managing their information and interactions with your company on a single platform that’s always accessible from anywhere’.

Working with over 150,000 companies and employing upwards of 30,000 people any increase in employment here is only set to continue an upward trajectory.

Their platforms help companies with sales, customer retention, marketing and engagement among a host of other services.

With companies such as Schneider electrical and American express under their belts its easy to see that the companies are on a positive advancement.

The event in the convention centre was attended by around 1000 staff embers and the Taoiseach Leo Varadker.

Martin Shanahan, CEO IDA Ireland, said: “This is one of the largest single jobs announcements in the 70-year history of IDA Ireland. As discussed during our visit to the company’s headquarters in San Francisco last week, Salesforce is very familiar with what Ireland has to offer and this announcement is a strong indicator of the strength of the Irish proposition to investors across the world.

Criticism

Following the announcement a number of issues were raised by reported and those inside the industry such as housing shortages and the small labour market in Ireland. These were laid to rest though as IDA spokespeople and employees of Salesforce note the 5-year plan and a strong belief in the Irish economy.

Some critics questioned why the Salesforce tower and new employment opportunities were not announced for areas outside of Dublin. Adrian Weckler noted ‘The highly paid jobs are expected to put new pressure on rents around Dublin’s centre’.

These areas of worry seem to be continuing through almost every business announcement and labour announcement in recent times and it most definitely an area that the Irish govern need to address. But with positive announcements like that from Salesforce, it stands to reason that tech companies trust in the government’s ability and the economy to withstand any short term housing and labour issues.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, said: “This is a hugely significant announcement and a strong vote of confidence in Ireland and what we have to offer. Ireland is now well-established as a vibrant technology hub, and the opening of the Salesforce Tower campus in Dublin city is a very welcome addition to that landscape.”

Public discussion:

Many commentators from the public also welcomed the news, however, some questioned the Dublin only positions of the company with many commentating on the feasibility of tech ceremonies to work in rural Ireland

Geralyn Early said in the Journal ‘There are too many jobs going to Dublin, let’s face it! I moved back to the West and would like to see companies doing their homework and taking the risk to include the West of Ireland in their development plans! It would be so progressive!!!’

Seanán Ó Coistín also said  ‘I have a suspicion that these jobs will be customer support for Europe and elsewhere and will require people with language skills, something which is in short supply in Ireland. I wonder how many Irish people will be recruited for these jobs’.

As with every positive announcement, there are always some issues to consider

Failte Ireland announced Brexit plans

Failte Ireland announced Brexit plans

Failte Ireland unveiled plans to spend up to €5 million ahead of Brexit, with the majority of funding going towards the border counties. It is believed this plan has been in the works since the Brexit vote but efforts have been stepped up recently in large part due to the political uncertainty in the United Kingdom.

The border counties comprise of Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. Due to their proximity to the north and the volume of trade between the counties, it is believed that these will be some of the hardest affected should Brexit negotiations not prove fruitful in the near future.

Tourism is one of the key areas that both businesses and the Irish government are looking at closely due to the large volume of visitors who may be affected post-Brexit. Highland radio noted that a hard Brexit may cost up to €380 million in the tourism sector.

Failte Ireland has stated that the money will be used to help business diversify into other markets and manage the impact a devaluation in the sterling and a decrease in visitors may have.

An even closer look shows some of the areas that Failte Ireland is specifically targeting, such as new markets and the type of tourism which they aim to bring in.

€1.75 million is to be allocated to commercial development allowing Irish business to target the US market with products and services that typically would have been geared towards the UK market.

Without forgetting the UK Failte Ireland are also using resources to highlight the benefits of Ireland to the UK post-Brexit. This is namely in within business tourism and the golfing sector, two areas which have always maintained positive experienced for UK customers.

Reasons for the concern:

Planning has been in motion since the Brexit vote, however, the recent tumultuous events in the UK have made the likelihood of a hard Brexit more likely, business have become more concerned.

A recent survey of 500 business has shown the up to 70% see Brexit as the biggest challenge for them in the future. This rises to 80% for accommodation and a staggering 90% for restaurants in the border counties. Almost 3.4 million British visitors visit Ireland every year spending an estimated €1.6 billion.

The uncertainty of Brexit, Visa needs and the power of the sterling may have a huge impact on many of these businesses and how they operate.

Failte Irelands chief executive Paul Kelly said: “As we await the final outcome of Brexit, and with the situation changing on a daily basis, it is still difficult to quantify the range and scope of impacts that Brexit will have.

Showing that even the heads of some of these institutions aren’t certain of all the effects the Brexit may have.

In the same statement, he called for businesses to ready  Brexit plans and diversify. Looking at other markets or even locally may help business throughout the upcoming months as they will also be approaching the summer.

The increased VAT rate introduced by the Irish government has also been a determining factor in Failte Ireland’s approach to recent events in the UK.

As the sterling fluctuates businesses are going to have to be extra cautious and aware of events within the UK.

RTE reported that another €1 million is set to be allocated to the training of staff in the tourism sector effectively making them ready for new customers and a new type of tourism depending on their location and the businesses that they are in.

It is believed the northern counties will have the toughest time due to the largely rural landscape of the region. Although this is one of the key factors for visitors, many may choose to stay in the North rather than cross the border.

On the ground:

It seems most of the news lately regards Brexit but not many people have a true understanding of what may or may not occur due to the situation in London.

Full details of Teresa Mays proposal weren’t even released before it was rejected and with only 70 days to go, it seems more unlikely that a successful resolution is going to be found.

Many industries across Ireland are gearing towards a hard Brexit which will have a huge impact on the economy of the island and with UK relations due to our shared history and closely linked economies.

Many businesses will be looking at diversification and markets in the US and EU. Those without a plan should really be looking at ways to work around Brexit if they have not already begun.