TWO MPS have added their voices to calls for the former chief executive of NHS Croydon to end her silence over a £28 million misreporting of the trust's finances. A joint scrutiny committee set up to investigate the scandal has urged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to compel Caroline Taylor, who refused to give evidence, to answer questions about why the trust posted a £5.5 million surplus in 2010/11 when it had in fact overspent by £23 million. The Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee found that accounting errors had been "deliberately hidden" but the majority of its findings were hamstrung by a lack of cooperation from key figures in the NHS. Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell intends to raise the matter as an adjournment debate in the House of Commons. He said: "I think there are parallels with with the Francis Report and Mid Staffordshire, not in the sense of the appalling treatment of patients, but one thing the report identified as part of the problem was the culture of secrecy in the NHS and a resistance to criticism, which is clearly what we have here. "Something has gone wrong but rather than putting their hands up and having open discussion, there has been a deliberate decision not to cooperate with this process, which is completely unacceptable in terms of the amount of money we're talking about." Mr Barwell was critical of councillors Toni Letts, former chairman of NHS Croydon, and David Fitze, chair of the audit committee, who refused to give evidence. They argued that having cooperated with an earlier £1 million independent investigation, which uncovered the financial mismanagement but found no one responsible, they had nothing further to add. "I was disappointed with David and Tony, who I know are both good people, didn't join in on this," said Mr Barwell. "Had David agreed it would have been very difficult for the chief executive not to do so." Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway described the scrutiny report's findings, published on Monday, as "shocking". He added: "Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that it has taken so long to begin unravelling this appalling financial mess. "I applaud the committee for their tenacious inquiries in seeking to get answers for the people of Croydon who deserve a lot better. "The fact that a health trust can lose such an enormous sum of money without anyone taking responsibility for it is irresponsible and unacceptable. "It is high time that Caroline Taylor and senior executives came forward to give evidence. If they refuse, they should give evidence under caution." Mr Ottaway said he too would be writing to Mr Hunt urging him to take action. He added: "Everything should be done to ensure all those whose action or inaction may have been the cause of the overspend and the subsequent cover up are held to account." The Advertiser was the first organisation to publicly call out Ms Taylor over her silence. Last October we published an article listing eight key questions she has still yet to answer. Ms Taylor was appointed Special Administrator of troubled South London Healthcare NHS Trust in April. She has been unavailable for comment this week. Criticism over a lack of accountability and openness has prompted familiar a response from the NHS. NHS London, which commissioned the Ernst & Young review, closed down as an organisation on March 31 as part of the Government's health reforms. Speaking on its behalf, NHS England repeated the same line used in face of previous criticism - the £28 million discrepancy was a systems fault and no individuals were to blame. "NHS London commissioned an independent firm of accountants to do a detailed and forensic investigation into Croydon PCT's finances," a spokesperson said. "This investigation took over six months, and included the examination of over 600,000 documents and detailed interviews with all those involved. "The report made it very clear that mistakes were made, but found no evidence that individuals were at fault. It concluded that this was a failure of the financial system and a failure of over-sight."For more coverage of the scrutiny committee report, read this week's Advertiser, out on Friday (May 3).
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