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Contractors ‘overclaim £1m’ from prison body

The Northern Ireland Prison Service has reported massive overpayments to contractors involving an estimated total of over £1m.

The cases involve alleged overclaiming by three contractors during a five-year period from 2002.

Details have been disclosed in the service's annual report and accounts for 2009/10, published yesterday.

The names of the contractors have not been made public, and the prisons’ organisation has expressed confidence about recouping the money.

Its annual accounts said changes in “internal procedures” relating to contracts led to overpayments to a single building contractor being identified. These were “estimated at around £650k over a five-year period from 2002”, the document said.

It added: “This case is currently the subject of arbitration proceedings and the Prison Service is confident that this will result in recovery of monies.

“A wider review identified two other contractors who similarly have been over-claiming on invoices; the combined value is estimated to be £600k over a five- year period from 2002.

“Following discussions with legal representatives, the contractors are presently co-operating with the Prison Service and both contractors have accepted there are anomalies in their invoices and are willing to arrive at a settlement in an effort to resolve the matter amicably without recourse to litigation.”

In a Press release on the annual report, the Director General of the Prison Service Robin Masefield yesterday highlighted positive developments achieved during the year 2009/10.

He said: “The cost per prisoner place has been reduced to £77,831, a decrease of £10,000 per prisoner from the position six years ago when I became Director General.

“The number of assaults, both by prisoners on prisoners and by prisoners on staff, were kept to low levels and while the absenteeism target was not met, it was encouraging that it dropped by over two days per staff member from the previous year.”

The average absenteeism rate for each member of staff was 12.64 days, while the target had been 11 days.

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