Jenkin admits he acted in NHS deal (CORRECTED)

CORRECTION (PUBLISHED 26 OCTOBER 1993) APPENDED TO THIS ARTICLE

LORD JENKIN, the former Tory cabinet minister, has confirmed that he intervened in the awarding of a tender for part of an NHS project which lost taxpayers more than pounds 20m.

In a report to the Commons Public Accounts Committee, the Comptroller and Auditor General said Lord Jenkin's intervention on behalf of Andersen Consulting, for which he acted as an adviser, was disturbing.

In a letter to the PAC Lord Jenkin, who as Patrick Jenkin was Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, defends his actions and asks the committee not to publish a report 'which would be immensely damaging to my reputation'. The letter was published among evidence from a special PAC hearing last May into mismanagement of a computer scheme by Wessex Regional Health Authority. The PAC report is due in the

autumn.

The project was halted in 1990, with losses estimated between pounds 63m and pounds 80m. Wessex asked the district auditor to investigate. He produced two confidential reports, disclosing irregularities in tendering and potential conflicts of interest, and criticised Andersen Consulting and Lord Jenkin. The existence of the two reports was revealed during an investigation by the Independent and Computer Weekly. One report showed that Wessex gave a contract to Andersen Consulting in 1987, in breach of European Community tendering law and the authority's own rule, which did not include agreements on maximum price. It emerged that Andersen had not won the original tender, but was awarded it after 'aggressive' lobbying with Wessex.

In his letter to the PAC, Lord Jenkin refers to the articles, saying: 'My name figures prominently and it was implied that . . . I had improperly put 'intense pressure on the authority to accept the bid made by Andersen'.'

The auditor noted Lord Jenkin tried to disssuade the authority's chairman from appointing the winner of the original tender, and that Lord Jenkin had 'information regarding rival bids' which would not have 'normally been available'.

In his letter, Lord Jenkin says: 'The (PAC) seems to have accepted . . . (that) Andersen's were guilty of a 'clear theft of information to be passed to a parliamentary consultant'. By implication, therefore, I stand accused of receiving stolen property.' He adds: 'To the best of my knowledge and belief, I and Andersen Consulting acted perfectly properly throughout.'

Andersen Consulting also denies that it acted improperly.

CORRECTION

IN AN article on 2 August, reporting the publication of the evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee on the Wessex Regional Health Authority's computer procurement programme, we regret that we misrepresented the written evidence submitted by Lord Jenkin of Roding.

It is not true, as we wrongly stated, that he had asked the PAC 'not to publish a report which would be damaging to his reputation'; what he asked the PAC was to take account of his evidence before publishing its report - which we accept is a material difference.

Further, in condensing two paragraphs of Lord Jenkin's evidence, we may have further misled our readers. Lord Jenkin's evidence made the point that the District Auditor had drawn his inference about the improper use of information without having heard any evidence either from himself or from Andersen Consulting, for whom he was acting. We omitted this important point, which on reflection, should have been included.

The Independent accepts that in these respects our report did not give a fair account of Lord Jenkin's evidence and we have apologised to him.

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