Ministers face call for public inquiry into Bradford free school fraud scandal

MINISTERS ARE facing calls for a public inquiry into the Government's handling of the Kings Science Academy case after three people including its founder and former principal were found guilty of fraud.

The former Kings Science Academy.
The former Kings Science Academy.

The ex headteacher Sajid Hussain Raza, 43, his sister Shabana Hussain, 40, who was a teacher, and the school’s finance director Daud Khan, 44, were convicted of making payments into personal bank accounts from Department for Education grants intended to help set up the free school in Bradford in 2011. They were said to have obtained around £150,000.

The Judge told all three defendants he was considering jail sentences.

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The trial heard Raza, used some of the money to make mortgage repayments on rental properties he owned to alleviate his own financial problems.

There are now renewed calls from the National Union of Teachers for an inquiry into the way the Kings Science Academy was set up and the Department for Education’s handling of the criminal allegations which were not investigated for six months after they were first reported.

NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “There are further questions surrounding these events which remain unanswered and for which DfE must answer. This was one of the first of Michael Gove’s flagship free schools. In the haste, it is clear that insufficient due diligence was carried out on the individuals establishing this school.”

Mr Courtney also questioned why the DfE failed to ensure police investigate fraud allegations until after the matter leaked into the public domain.

The DfE’s own audit investigation report into the school’s finances in May 2013 found invoices had been fabricated to claim £10,800 public money through rent. It reported this to Action Fraud, a service which handles all reports of financial crime for the police, in a call made in April 2013.

However the call was mistakenly classed as being for information only by Action Fraud.

This mistake in classifying the case as an information report apparently only came to light after the DfE’s own investigation report was leaked and then published by the department in October 2013.

However The Yorkshire Post has previously revealed that Action Fraud had infact already told the DfE in September 2013 that the case had not been looked at for criminal investigation because it had not been recorded as a crime but as information. However the department took no further action until their own investigation report was leaked and the published seven weeks later.

The DfE had contacted Action Fraud on September 5 to ask for an update about the case.

In the reply it was made clear to the DfE that their call had been treated as an information report and that more information and a crime report was needed in order for there to be an investigation.

Mr Courtney said: “Having reported the school to the police when these revelations first came to light in 2013, the DfE did not follow up their initial complaint after they were informed that it had been,wrongly as it transpired, classified as requiring no further police action.”

A DfE spokesman said: “All allegations of financial mismanagement are taken extremely seriously and the free school programme is designed so that these issues can be dealt with far more quickly than in council-run schools.

“In this case, the Education Funding Agency acted as soon as allegations were made and, thanks to that swift action, inappropriately used public funds were recovered.”

The DfE added that on the discovery of fraud, the department notified Action Fraud. It said Action Fraud chose to take no further action. However on further investigation, the police considered this response inappropriate and took action to investigate the case.