Brangam Bagnall & Co: Legal Practitioner Fraud Perpetrated against the Health and Personal Social Services

George Brangam, Solicitor, defrauds the health service of £0.27 million

John Dowdall CB, the Comptroller and Auditor General, published a Report today examining the events leading to the discovery of fraud perpetrated by George Brangam, solicitor and owner of the legal practice of Brangam Bagnall & Co against the health service. This reveals the extensive nature of the frauds committed and action taken since they were uncovered. The Report concludes with a number of recommendations for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the health bodies and The Law Society, to tighten up controls to prevent this happening again. Fraudulent payments of £277,652 were identified, in six of the eleven health bodies throughout Northern Ireland, for whom the firm provided legal services. As a result of these frauds, which occurred over a period of eight years, money that could have been spent on front-line activity in the health service was siphoned out of the system.

Example of the type of fraud uncovered

The Report highlights 28 cases where fraudulent payments occurred. The following extract from the Report provides detail on how fraud was perpetrated in one instance.

Around March 2002, George Brangam wrote to Causeway Trust stating that this case could be settled for £50,000 which was subsequently paid by the Trust to Brangam Bagnall & Co. The case was actually settled for £30,000 and an internal invoice for the £20,000 balance was fraudulently raised to transfer this amount, for professional services rendered, from the client account to the office account.

Events leading to the discovery of the fraud

Although Causeway Trust (now part of the Northern Health & Social Care Trust) like some other health bodies, missed earlier opportunities to uncover the fraudulent activities of George Brangam in relation to its own cases, nonetheless, the Trust is commended for uncovering the fraud and taking appropriate and immediate action thereafter.

Actions taken since the discovery

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, The Law Society of Northern Ireland and the PSNI have also been proactive in dealing with this fraud. The Department against the practice, on behalf of all health bodies affected, and judgement has been obtained ordering full recovery of the amount claimed, including costs.

Conclusions and recommendations

The Department believes that it is highly unlikely that these fraudulent activities wouldhave been discovered given their sophisticated nature and the various means of perpetrating them. The Law Society also considers that it was the complexity of the frauds perpetrated, taken together with the fact that existing controls within the Department and the Trusts were not properly applied, which prevented earlier detection. However, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report concludes that, if health bodies had queried and investigated certain payments requested by Brangam Bagnall & Co and followed guidance issued by the Department, some of these frauds may have been detected long before 2006. It would only have been necessary to identify one of the many areas of suspected fraud to have triggered an investigation which would have promptly terminated this long - running loss of public funds.

Notes for Editors

  1. The Comptroller and Auditor General is the Head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (the Audit Office). He and the NIAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of Government Departments and a range of other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to report to the Assembly on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and public bodies use their resources. His reports are published as Assembly papers.
  2. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, Brangam Bagnall & Co: Legal Practitioner Fraud Perpetrated against the Health & Personal Social Services” is published as NIA 195/07-08 of Session 2007-08. It is available from the Stationery Office throughout the United Kingdom. It is also available on the Audit Office website at The report is embargoed until 00.01hrs on 4 July 2008.
  3. George Brangam (now deceased) was the owner and leading partner in the firm of solicitors, Brangam Bagnall & Company which was set up in January 1995 following the decision by the Department to market test the provision of legal services. The firm was closed down by The Law Society on 1 September 2006.