15 March 2001 Edition

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Health board chiefs expenses scandal

Health chiefs in the Six Counties are facing new accusations of corruption as it emerged they have clocked up thousands of pounds of expenses in trips abroad.

The revelations were released in a response to a written question from Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. Figures show that three trust chief executives in the Eastern board area topped the list of allowances paid out since 1996.

Since then, John Ferguson at the Ulster Community and Hospitals Trust has claimed a total of £37,400. Richard Black at the North and West Belfast Trust claimed £34,383 and Bob Ferguson at the South and East Belfast trust claimed £28,698. The total expenses incurred by the four Southern Board Trust chief executives for the same period came to just £3,000.

These revelations follow critical reports by the audit office on the question of expenses, in particular.

The officials have attempted to argue that the trips to luxury health conferences from Turin to Boston encourage investment and benefit front-line services, but the argument is wearing thin with politicians, unions and the public at large, says Sinn Féin health spokesperson and MLA Sue Ramsey. She has called for greater accountability for the health trusts.

``The wide differences between the expenses within and between each health board area gives rise to great concern,'' she said. ``There are also important implications for the failure of some of these trusts to deliver front-line services.''

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