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Academy heads suspended for splashing the cash

Service Area: Criminal and Regulatory

Member: Roger Isaacs

An investigation into an Academy Trust that ended up with the Chief Executive being suspended has uncovered lavish spending on gift hampers, alcohol ordered to hotel rooms and unapproved severance payments.

According to a statement, both the Chief Executive and Executive Principal of the Thrive Partnership Academy Trust were suspended last year pending an investigation.

However, the investigators’ report has revealed that the pair were suspended “following allegations of inappropriate conduct and financial mismanagement”.

According to the report, the investigation into the Trust uncovered “a number of significant findings and breaches of the Academies Financial Handbook” including “poor oversight, poor procurement practices, questionable recruitment and severance processes and instances of irregular expenditure”.

The investigators have also questioned why the Trust spent £138,814 on branding and website design from the most expensive supplier from those that quoted for the work.

Among the breaches recorded by the investigation were alleged links between a firm the Trust used and staff at one of its schools, which should have been declared in “existing trust staff interests” in the board minutes.

However, the redacted report does not make clear whether this firm is the supplier that was chosen to design the websites.

Meanwhile, the report found a lack of governance oversight.

Financial governance at schools and charitable trusts must be beyond reproach. Allegations of inappropriate conduct or mismanagement of funding will always be investigated thoroughly by forensic experts, who will determine where the money was spent and whether or not the spending was inappropriate.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “The management of trusts is strictly governed by regulation and requires considerable oversight. It is clear that in this case investigators played a key role in uncovering actions that appear to be outside of these clearly defined rules. This illustrates the importance of regular independent checks on academies and charities, which are best conducted by specialist accountants and auditors.”

Author: Roger Isaacs
11 October 2019

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