MPs have issued a formal protest at the way an NHS internal audit was ordered to stop his investigations after discovering potential frauds by family doctors.
The Public Accounts Committee raised the concerns after learning that the chief internal auditor of the Northern Ireland Central Services Agency ‘was informed he was to discontinue investigations of fraud unless specifically requested to (carry them out)’.
A report by the PAC said the order from NHS chiefs came after the internal auditor reported that nine GP practices were presenting high patterns of night visit claims.
In his report to the audit committee of the agency – which provides administrative support to health and social services in Northern Ireland – the internal auditor identified possible overclaims amounting to £177,000.
The PAC said this decision meant that almost no work was done to monitor and investigate practitioner payments in parts of Northern Ireland for almost a year.
In a later letter of assurance, the internal auditor, which the agency refused to name, maintained that four family practitioner services remained open to abuse by dishonest practitioners and members of the public, with the possibility of fraud by doctors being ‘potentially unlimited’.
The PAC report said NHS officials denied the internal auditor was being moved out of an area he should be investigating, insisting it was a matter of ‘clarifying where the legitimate responsibilities stood.’
Labour committee member Alan Williams observed as his time for conducting cross-examination ran out: ‘The only thing as exhausted as my time this afternoon is my credulity over what we are hearing.’
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