Auditors in one local authority (LA) have raised major concerns over financial malpractice
and issued a warning that the rise in the number of academies is likely to make the problem worse.
Following a “robust” audit, Brent Council is concerned about financial management in six out of 10 schools it checked. Some of its primary schools had been locked into “toxic” equipment deals which tempt schools into entering costly agreements to lease equipment by offering a “cash-back”. Others are paying heads an average of £10,000 a year more than they should.
According to the TES
, Brent Council spends more time checking the finances of its maintained schools than any of the 20 London councils with published audit plans for 2012/13. Brent tightened up its auditing after an alleged £2.7 million fraud case involving Copland Community School in 2009. The Copland case reaches the Crown Court in October.
But Brent Council’s finance director told TES that academy expansion is likely to make financial mismanagement worse. “The only watchdog over them is the Department for Education itself. We [the Local Authority] have no relationship with them, but who does?”
Incoming president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Hank Roberts, the whistleblower who drew attention to the financial problems at Copland, told TES that the misuse of taxpayers’ money is already widespread and “with more schools becoming financially autonomous academies, [the problem] will get infinitely worse.”
The TES wrote that the Department for Education was unavailable to comment.