Former Labour MP Margaret Moran fiddled her expenses claims to receive more than £53,000, a jury has ruled.
The 57-year-old claimed nearly her entire annual allowance in one bogus expenses entry and forged invoices for more than £20,000 of non-existent goods and services.
Moran, who served as MP for Luton South from 1997 until the 2010 election, was found to have falsely claimed around £60,000 in parliamentary expenses between 2004 and 2008, of which she received £53,000.
Jurors at Southwark Crown Court in London were unable to return a guilty verdict after it was ruled that Moran was unfit to stand trial for mental health reasons. Instead, in a trial of issue, the jury found she had committed 15 counts of false accounting and six counts of using a false instrument over the claims for parliamentary expenses.
Mr Justice Saunders adjourned the disposal of the case to a later date after the jury reached a unanimous verdict on all counts.
Moran may be subject to a supervision order, a hospital order or absolute discharge, where no further action is taken against her, the judge said. She will not face a criminal conviction due to her ill health which meant she was unfit to stand trial, the court heard.
"She is presently being treated by psychiatrists at home and that treatment will continue," Mr Justice Saunders said.
Moran's false expenses claims are the largest amount uncovered in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal. Former Labour minister Elliot Morley was jailed last year for dishonestly claiming more than £30,000 in parliamentary expenses.
The court heard Moran submitted an invoice for £22,500 in August 2008 - just under the annual maximum expense allowance for an MP - to treat dry rot at her Southampton home, using the money instead to fund "home improvements". She was able to make the dry rot claim by "flipping" her two homes - changing which property was her second home and therefore allowing her to claim expenses on it.
Moran also changed dates on invoices for the work so that the money would be paid. One invoice in August 2007 was for £14,805 - apparently for boiler repairs and work on her conservatory in her constituency home in Luton, when it was actually at her house in Southampton, the court heard.
- 1. HMRC vs Vodafone
Most recently HM Revenue & Customs let Vodafone off the hook - for quite a sum. Vodafone paid out just £1.25 billion despite an original tax bill being closer to £8 billion (HMRC has always refused to reveal how much it thought the Vodafone final bill was). The episode was made even more shaming and painful because Vodafone was given several years to come good with the cash owed - even though it was sitting on a substantial cash pile at the time.</p>
- 2. HMRC vs Goldman Sachs
The Exchequer is estimated to have lost around £10 million to Goldman Sachs recently through an 'error' made by HMRC. The episode relates to an employee benefit trust run by Goldman allowing employees to take non-repayable loans that had no National Insurance contributions tied to them. HMRC <em>did</em> claw back the full amount from more than 20 businesses - but not Goldman. HMRC remains cagey about the details of the deal. Little HMRC accountability or transparency.</p>
- 3. Taxpayer vs Carlyle Group - QinetiQ
Huge problems with QinetiQ, the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, or DERA. A lack of clarity on contractual arrangements at the outset didn't help, allowing private equity company Carlyle to hammer the price down (why would you start negotiations when you didn't know the company's true value?). The Ministry of Defence behaved, it was said, like "an innocent at a table of card-sharps". Estimated cost to the taxpayer - £90 million. Huge sums were later made by QinetiQ management when the company listed.</p>
- 4. Taxpayer vs NHS Management
The TaxPayers' Alliances estimates £2.7bn worth of taxpayer cash was wasted with a super-expensive 'National Programme for IT in the NHS'. The Department of Health, in the end, had very little to show for it as a consequence. Another example of poor management and a seemingly ingrained inability to provide taxpayers' with value for money.</p>
"BT is paid £9 million to implement systems at each NHS site, even though the same systems have been purchased for under £2 million by NHS organisations outside the Programme", the Commons Public Accounts Committee noted.</p>
- 5. Taxpayer vs public sector productivity
Contentious. The Office for National Statistics estimated this has declined 3.4% since 1997, "with inputs increasing by 38%." The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimate that this inefficiency costs the taxpayer £58.4 billion a year.</p>
Given the above record, are there any deals that the taxpayer has actually won out on? Not many, but the one successful project was the roll out of new Jobcentre Plus offices. It came in £314 million under budget, claims the Taxpayers' Alliance. A small cheer.</p>