Financial mismanagement at trust revealed
The National Governors’ Association (NGA) has warned that governing bodies need to make sure that their schools have proper financial procedures in place – and the mechanisms to ensure they are being adhered to – after a government investigation revealed serious failings at a federation of academies.
The internal audit unit of the DfE investigated the Priory Federation Academies Trust and found evidence of a number of financial irregularities involving the federation’s CEO, who has since resigned. These included using the federation’s funds to purchase training for his son and pay for personal tax advice as well as using a federation credit card to make personal purchases and having items delivered to the academy which were ‘both personal and of an inappropriate nature’.
Other concerns involved refurbishing costs for a flat that the CEO intended to live in and the employment of members of his family without carrying out the appropriate procedures.
The Priory Trust, which has described itself as ‘chastened by the experiences’, has accepted the report’s findings and is recovering £12,000 from the departing CEO. Criticism of its financial management has also seen it replace its finance director.
In the light of the findings, the NGA told its members: ‘Governing bodies need to make sure that their schools have proper financial procedures in place and have the mechanisms to ensure they are being adhered to.’
It added: ‘Governing bodies and boards of trustees need to ensure that they have sufficient financial expertise to carry out their duties. Not all governors need to be financial whizz kids, but we all need to understand our financial responsibilities and amongst the governing body/board there must be a number (the finance committee or equivalent) with the competence to ensure effective financial management.’
A DfE spokesman said: ‘The financial accountability systems in place for academies are more rigorous than those for maintained schools. Unlike maintained schools, academies must have their accounts externally audited. But lessons can always be learned and we will consider whether we need to strengthen our systems at federation level.’
By David Gordon