Posted: Fri 16th Jun 2023

Health Minister corrects record after claim she ‘misled’ Senedd over Betsi Cadwaladr financial mismanagement report

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Jun 16th, 2023

The Health Minister Eluned Morgan has corrected the Senedd record after a challenge over comments made around who drove the commissioning of a report that has allegedly uncovered financial mismanagement at the local health board. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Despite concerns raised by politicians and the public, the report ‘owned’ by Betsi Cadwaladr and by accounting firm Ernst & Young (EY) has remained undisclosed. ​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌The board’s recent return to special measures has increased the demand for transparency. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The issue was raised by Darren Millar MS via a point of order in the Senedd on Wednesday, “I’d like to raise a point of order in relation to a comment made by the Minister for Health and Social Services last week in the debate in which my party called for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to publish the Ernst & Young report, which there’s been a lot of speculation about and a lot of public interest in in North Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“In the debate on that report, the Minister said, and I quote ‘The audit committee of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, on advice from the Welsh Government, commissioned Ernst & Young to undertake a forensic review of accounting management after Audit Wales qualified the health board’s accounts for 2021-22 and identified internal control failures.’ ” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“That assertion has been disputed by the former chair of the health board, who said the statement was ‘misleading and inaccurate’. He also said that it was certainly not commissioned—the report—on the advice of the Welsh Government, and, in addition to that, the former vice-chair of the audit committee of the health board, the former independent member Richard Micklewright, said that ‘the Welsh government was not involved in the decision in any way nor was its input sought.’ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Clearly, there’s a dispute about whether that statement is accurate or not. If it is not accurate, the statement which the Minister made, then she may have inadvertently misled this Senedd. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“So, I would be very grateful—given the public interest in this matter, it’s essential that we get to the truth—I’d be very grateful if the Minister could address these concerns as soon as possible.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS responded, “I’d like to thank Darren Millar for the opportunity to set out the situation. The director general of the NHS in Wales, Judith Paget, spoke directly to the then chief executive of Betsi, Jo Whitehead, following the Audit Wales report that found allegations of financial misstatements, and recommended that the health board should undertake a full investigation to understand how the misstatements had occurred. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The Welsh Government did not commission the report, and I’ve never suggested that the Welsh Government commissioned the report, but it is probably fair to say that there was not a direct conversation, to my knowledge, between the Welsh Government and the audit committee of the Betsi board, but there was a conversation, as I have noted, which took place between the CEO of the NHS in Wales and the CEO of Betsi, and I’m happy to correct the record on that score.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The audit committee of Betsi then commissioned the Ernst & Young report. The former board of Betsi must take full responsibility for that, and for all the terms and conditions associated with the report.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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