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Health Chief quits amid financial investigation

The Chief Executive of Cornwall’s mental health and community hospitals organisation has resigned amid allegations of financial and governance failings.

Phil Confue had been the Chief Executive of Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) for the past nine years.

He has resigned following two external financial reviews, one of which investigated the allegation that Mr Confue had spent thousands of pounds of the Trust’s money to fund an academic research project on which he was working.

Another review claimed that both he and several other board members were told to repay overtime payments made for extra hours of work during the early days of the pandemic.

It is believed that CPFT is now the subject of a fraud investigation by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) but a spokesperson has said the Trust will not comment on whether or not this claim is true.

The most recent figures from the NHSCFA estimate that fraud costs the NHS £1.21 billion every year but few of the misappropriated funds are ever recovered.

Even if allegations are investigated thoroughly using specialist forensic investigators and are subsequently proved, recovering stolen money from perpetrators is often very difficult.

A common indication of fraud is a person who seems to living beyond his or her means.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “Often those who steal from their employers are motivated by a need to fund gambling, drug or other expensive addictions.  In such cases, by the time the frauds are uncovered, it is likely that most of the money that has been misappropriate will have been spent.

“If recovering what has been stolen is not possible, some employers including public bodies are keen to see justice being done by way of a criminal prosecution of the suspected fraudsters.  However, fraud trials are notoriously complex and expensive which is one reason why police and prosecution authorities tend to be reluctant to press charges, even if millions of pounds are at stake.

“It is for this reason that we have seen an increasing interest in private prosecutions.  Such prosecutions can be instigated by victims of fraud including the employers of suspected perpetrators.  Most of the costs of the prosecution are typically recoverable from a government fund.

“The secret of a successful fraud prosecution is often strong forensic accountancy evidence and compelling expert witness testimony that allows the jury to understand, in simple terms how the fraud was perpetrated.”

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