Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Fresh questions about corrupt lawyer

Fresh questions about corrupt health service lawyer George Brangam have been tabled at the Assembly, ahead of a major Stormont investigation.

Brangam, a prominent Belfast-based solicitor, died last year while under police investigation in connection with his work for NHS bodies.

A subsequent report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office linked Brangam to a string of fraudulently claimed payments, worth an estimated £277,652.

The Audit Office findings will form the basis for a probe by the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, with a hearing scheduled for December.

In preparation for this inquiry, PAC member John Dallat has tabled questions to Health Minister Michael McGimpsey on the George Brangam case.

These relate back to the lawyer’s time as a director of the Department of Health ’s Central Services Agency in the 1980s.

When Brangam left this body to form his own private law practice, he secured a number of contracts for NHS legal work previously carried out by the Agency.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed in August that Brangam had been at the centre of an investigation by the Central Services Agency 19 years before being exposed as a fraudster.

This involved a building society account set up for payments to another lawyer.

The other lawyer, however, changed his story and stated that Brangam had been acting with his authority.

The case nevertheless caused concern within the NHS organisation, with one high-ranking official describing it in an internal document as “distasteful”.

It seems likely that this past probe will be examined by the PA C as part of its review.

Among Mr Dallat’s questions to the Minister is one asking him “what investigations into George Brangam were conducted by the Central Services Agency during his time as its Director”.

The PAC is also expected to examine the circumstances surrounding the contracting out of CSA work to private law firms including Brangam’s.

The Assembly committee will issue its own report in the new year setting out recommendations to help prevent government bodies being hit by fraud.

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