Northern Ireland

Northern Health Trust probe reveals potential malpractice

edwin poots
Image caption Mr Poots said that where wrong doing has occurred, it must be addressed

Information reported by whistle-blowers has revealed "potential malpractice" within the Northern Health Trust, a report has found.

The report said work, totalling about £5.7m, was not subject to appropriate control.

The inquiry revealed potential malpractice in the procurement and management of building maintenance in the trust over a 14-year period.

The Northern trust is now implementing 72 recommendations.

An investigation was undertaken by the Business Service Organisation's counter-fraud unit.

In a statement to the assembly, Health Minister Edwin Poots said that where wrong doing had occurred, it must be addressed.

"I am very concerned that the report highlights a serious lack of control within the estates management function in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT), and indeed relevant legacy organisations," he said.

"I am assured that the NHSCT management have accepted all of the recommendations and are taking steps to implement them to ensure that these failures will not be experienced again.

"The trust has made significant progress in implementing the recommendations to date.

"NHSCT management are assessing the reasons behind the failures identified in the report and an independent review will consider whether any further action is appropriate."

In a statement, the trust said: "While the extensive investigation did not uncover any fraud, it did report weaknesses in procurement, management and control of public funds over an extended period of time, which may not have achieved best value for money.

"The trust fully recognises this was unacceptable. "

It added that there was "no suggestion" in the report that the procured work was not completed.

"While, within the estates function, the administrative and procurement procedures fell short, at no time did this have any impact on the care of our patients or clients," it said.

"Over half of the 72 recommendations have already been implemented. The remainder will be taken forward by the Accountable Officer (Senior Director) monitored by the Trust Audit Committee.

"The trust will immediately commission an independent review of to assess the reasons behind the issues raised within the report and to make recommendations on any further action required."

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