Page last updated at 06:41 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

NI health fraud was 'preventable'

George Brangram
George Brangam swindled more than 270,000 from health bodies

A fraud which cost the health service in NI more than 270,000 was preventable, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

Over eight years, solicitor George Brangam siphoned off money mostly while settling medical negligence cases.

A number of recommendations have been put forward by the PAC including more fraud awareness training.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said the money from the fraud had been recovered and measures put in place.

"While this fraud took place before I took up post, I have taken action to prevent such a situation from happening again," he said.

"Last year, I put in place extensive measures aimed at preventing any such fraudulent activity in future."

Mr Brangam would invoice health bodies for more money than the case had actually been settled for, then keep the extra cash, ranging from 1,250 up to 75,000.

Paul Maskey, PAC chair, said the mistakes must not be repeated.

"This is one of the worst examples of procurement practice that this committee has ever seen," he said.

A senior partner in legal firm Brangam, Bagnall and Co, George Brangam died in August 2007.

At the time of his death, he was under investigation by the PSNI's fraud squad for his work on NHS compensation proceedings.

There is no suggestion that anyone else in the firm knew anything about his activities.

In July 2006, the Causeway HSS Trust informed the Department of Health of potential irregularities.

Within a period of less than five weeks, Mr Brangam's practice was shut down by the Law Society.

Auditor General John Dowdall said last year that the lawyer systematically defrauded six of the 11 health bodies he provided legal services to on a known 28 occasions over an eight-year period.

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