A FORMER senior IT manager for what was the Mid-Essex Hospital Trust (MEHT) has pleaded guilty to defrauding his employer of over £800,000. Barry David Stannard (aged 53, of Chelmsford in Essex, previously of Hadleigh, Ipswich) has pleaded guilty to four offences at Chelmsford Crown Court: two charges of fraud by false representation and two charges of cheating the public revenue.
The offences took place when Stannard was head of unified communications at the MEHT, which has since been merged into the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust. Those presiding at Chelmsford Crown Court determined that the total amount defrauded by Stannard was £806,229.80. As a band 8B senior manager, Stannard was in a position of trust.
The court case comes at a time when the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) has renewed its focus on procurement fraud and is encouraging more people to report any suspicion of such activity through the established reporting lines.
In this case, concerns first arose after the NHS Trust ran a data matching exercise on its payroll and accounts payable records alongside Companies House records. Initial enquiries were conducted by the Local Counter Fraud Specialist provider (RSM) and the investigation was escalated to the national level investigation by the NHSCFA as the likely scale of the losses involved began to emerge.
While Stannard had submitted a ‘nil return’ declaration of interests form to the Trust, the investigation confirmed that he was actually the director of two companies that had received a large amount of money from the Trust over a period of at least seven years (ie from 2012 until 2019).
Authority for sign-off
No products or services invoiced for by these companies were ever provided to the NHS. The hundreds of individual invoices submitted by Stannard’s own companies to the MEHT were all for relatively modest amounts, in turn meaning that he was authorised to sign them off without further checks.
On the invoices Stannard submitted, he also charged for VAT which was never forwarded to HMRC. The VAT registration number quoted on some of the invoices was false and related to another legitimate company. The VAT for which Stannard charged the NHS totalled in excess of £132,000. This is included in the total amount of £806,229.80 that Stannard defrauded the NHS.
The payments came from MEHT’s IT budget. The NHSCFA works closely with other enforcement agencies, in this case alerting HMRC that Stannard had appropriated a legitimate company’s VAT number.
Stannard is now due to appear at Chelmsford Crown Court for sentencing on Wednesday 30 June.