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3 July 2013 | Adam Leach
A health trust in Northern Ireland is being investigated over potentially irregular procurement payments totalling £860,000, the health minister there has announced.
The investigation, which is ongoing, into Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT) was launched following whistleblower allegations over potential procurement and management malpractice of building maintenance. An external audit into the trust’s annual accounts has so far identified £860,000 of payments that are “potentially irregular”.
In a statement to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Edwin Poots, health minister, said: “It is appropriate and important that where anyone has information about abuse of public money this is brought to light so that the specific issues can be resolved, appropriate lessons learned, and public confidence restored. Where wrongdoing has occurred it must be addressed, with a proportionate and appropriate response.”
The specific payments being probed relate to ‘measured day term contracts’, which are commonly used to pay a single contractor that provides regular services. The contract mechanism is commonly used for maintenance and repairs contractors.
While a full assessment of any potential action required will not be undertaken until the investigation has been concluded, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has already taken some corrective action. It has announced the Health Estates Investment Group will be carrying out compliance checks on all health trusts in Northern Ireland.
NHSCT referred SM to the ministerial statement when contacted for comment.