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Lord for hire Moonie, the Labour peer, is caught up in NHS fraud inquiry

Police have been asked to investigate the involvement of Lord Moonie, the Labour peer, in a company at the centre of a National Health Service fraud inquiry.

The former minister – one of four peers named in the “lords for hire” scandal – is a paid consultant to Americium Developments, a company being investigated by Scotland Yard.

It is alleged that Americium boasted about Moonie’s government links and friendship with Gordon Brown to secure business with CombineMed, a health firm that is cooperating with police inquiries. Moonie is paid up to £40,000 to act as a consultant to Americium, an Edinburgh-based information technology company.

Last week Campbell Martin, a former Scottish National party member of the Scottish parliament, wrote to the Metropolitan police asking detectives to investigate what, if anything, Moonie knew about the business activities of Americium. “Given the current police investigation into the actions of the company that pays him . . . Lord Moonie must disclose exactly what he does for them that justifies £40,000 per year,” he said.

The Sunday Times revealed last month that Moonie was one of four peers who indicated they were prepared to help amend a law in return for consultancy fees.

Scotland Yard’s investigation is looking into allegations that Americium unfairly or fraudulently helped CombineMed win a tender to supply information technology services to Imperial College NHS Trust in London.

Americium may have breached British and European Union competition regulations, including a requirement for tenders to be awarded in a fair and transparent manner.

While there is no suggestion that Moonie knew about or was involved in the alleged fraud, former employees of CombineMed, who left the business after raising concerns about Americium’s activities, allege that the Edinburgh company used Moonie’s position in the Lords as a blatant marketing tool.

He hosted a lunch at the Palace of Westminster in 2007 where representatives of both companies met. Tom Finn, a former president of CombineMed who attended the lunch, said the use of Westminster and Moonie had reinforced the company’s view that Americium had connections to government and the NHS that could help commercially.

“One of the representatives [of Americium] was constantly talking about his connections with the UK government,” Finn said. “He was selling everything from the connections with Brown to his intimate knowledge of the procurement selection process within the NHS.”

Sean Martyn, a former project manager with CombineMed, said Americium’s link to government was “the biggest reason” why CombineMed agreed to work with it. “He [the Americium representative] said that ‘if we did things right we would have access to Brown’.”

The Imperial College NHS Trust, formerly Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, had hired Americium to organise a tender for a new internet system that would cut its procurement costs. It terminated the relationship after allegations that the firm was also receiving £34,200 a month to promote CombineMed.

It is alleged that employees of Americium coached CombineMed staff on how to prepare their tender and how to answer crucial questions. An Americium employee also sat on the selection panel that awarded the contract.

Four CombineMed whistle-blowers raised concerns about the legality of the arrangements in a memo to their employer in October 2007. It stated: “We wrote the request for proposal [the invitation for bidders] which allowed us to answer our own questions, we were prepped by the two members of the selection committee who were working on our behalf, and we collaborated with Americium on how the official public notices (part of the EU process) were written.”

Last week CombineMed said it had no reason to believe Americium broke any law and the full disclosure of Americium’s work for CombineMed to the NHS trust “ensured the propriety of the arrangements”. The spokesman said an internal investigation had concluded that the whistle-blowers’ concerns “lacked merit”. The company, he said, had met Moonie twice to describe the services it offered.

He added: “We are aware of an investigation by the Metropolitan police relating to Americium in which we are a witness. We will of course cooperate fully.” Neither Moonie nor representatives of Americium were available to respond. Imperial College NHS Trust declined to comment.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5734072.ece

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