that won’t go away in school fraud row

The Yorkshire Post is today reporting fresh concerns over the way in which the Government attempted to report alleged fraud at the Kings Science Academy in Bradford…

…the Government is facing fresh questions as the Yorkshire Post reveals that evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee last week by a top civil servant does not tally with the documents given to the newspaper last year under the Freedom of Information Act.

Peter Lauener, the chief executive of the Education Funding Agency, was asked by PAC chairman Margaret Hodge why the DfE did not pursue the case when told the fraud authorities were only noting it. She added: “Why did you have to wait for Newsnght before action was taken?”

Mr Lauener replied: “Before Newsnight we had actually checked out with Action Fraud whether they were pursuing this, whether they needed more information, we phoned them. They said they had decided not to take any further action and we had to take them at their word.”

However according to a DfE response to a Yorkshire Post Freedom of Information request last year there was no record of a telephone call when the DfE asked for an update from Action Fraud – only an exchange of emails.

The DfE email to Action Fraud does not ask whether any more information is needed. It says: “The above case was reported in April to Action Fraud and to date there has been no follow up action by W.Yorks police. It would be helpful if we could be told whether the case is likely to be taken forward in order that we can finalise issues with the academy.”

Mr Brennan [shadow education minister Kevin Brennan] said: “The chief executive of the Education Funding Agency gave the impression to the committee that the DfE actively asked Action Fraud if more information was required to conduct a police investigation into the Kings Science Academy. In fact they did not do so in emails to Action Fraud and had been told by Action Fraud that there was no police investigation because the matter was being dealt with as an information report.

“They were also told more information would be needed and the case would need to be reported as a crime for police to be able to act. It is deeply unfortunate that the chief executive did not supply this information to the committee so that its members could understand that the Government had been informed seven weeks before Newsnight that this matter was only being dealt with an information report.”

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