Thursday, 25 February 2010

Northern Ireland - Holding Government to Account

Staff asked to 'falsify and forge' documents

Published Date: 23 February 2010

SENIOR management at a quango responsible for providing services and equipment at Scotland's health boards ordered staff to falsify, forge and create documents ahead of an external audit, an employment tribunal has heard.

Officials at National Services Scotland (NSS) – a division of the NHS answerable to the Scottish Government – told employees to "do what you have to do" in order to "fill the gaps" in files relating to corporate contracts, it is alleged.

In what was described as a "retro-fitting" exercise, one former manager at the organisation said she was subject to an internal investigation after telling her staff not to carry out the "inappropriate" and "illegal activities".

Read the complete Scotsman article here.

Could this be happening here? What lessons might apply to public authorities in Northern Ireland? Are audit trails and accountability processes sufficiently robust? Does the Northern Ireland Audit Office have the necessary independence to insist on external audits when serious questions are raised, especially about the behaviour of government departments? Are government committees prepared to ask Ministers and senior Civil Servants hard questions or do they sit back and await direction from those they are supposed to hold to account?