Province kept in dark on overruns in Halifax hospital project : minister

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's health minister defended his department Wednesday in light of almost $10 million in cost overruns to renovations at a Halifax hospital.
Chris d'Entremont said the province remained unaware of problems with the $48-million children's wing project at the IWK Health Centre until it was too late.
He said even members of the committee overseeing the project were kept in the dark.
As a result, the Health Department, which committed $36.5 million to the IWK project in 2005, will have to add another $6.75 million to help cover off rising labour and material costs.
Despite the additional millions that were being spent, d'Entremont said he believes health officials carried out the proper due diligence.
''The information we were receiving made us comfortable with the project, that things were going as planned, as approved,'' he said.
A consultant's report found that the labour and material costs contributed to most of the overruns, but that changes were made as work proceeded without thought to the overall budget.
D'Entremont said it was now clear that the government needs better management of all of its construction projects and that's why it's considering public-private partnerships.
''A lot of times because we're government it seems, we keep coming back with larger numbers whether it's a hospital, whether it's a school. We need to have a better way.''
But NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said it's not good enough for the government to simply wash its hands and say they just weren't informed.
He said the government needs to put the proper protocols in place on the ''front end'' to ensure that they are fully aware of decisions being made on major projects.
''Ultimately that responsibility lies with the Department of Health to keep themselves informed and involved in the spending of taxpayers money,'' said Dexter.

Organizations: Halifax hospital, Health Department, IWK Health Centre

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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