Legal services for Northern Ireland’s health bodies taken back in-house
Legal services provided to health bodies in Northern Ireland are being brought in-house as part of the fallout from a massive fraud committed by a firm of solicitors against the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
A report from the Northern Ireland Audit Office, published in July, found that solicitor George Brangam defrauded at least £277,652 from six health bodies over a period of eight years. Speculation has suggested the total value of the fraud could have exceeded a million pounds.
Brangam was a former director of the health department’s Central Service Agency’s directorate of legal services. His firm received payments of more than £27m from public bodies and was closed by the Law Society in 2006 after the frauds were discovered. Brangam died last year while under investigation by the police and with his personal assets frozen.
Prior to the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland, direct rule ministers had agreed to retain the use of competitive tendering for legal services, alongside the provision of some legal services by the Central Services Agency.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he was confident that the in-house team could handle all cases economically and without facing conflicts of interest.