Reopen inquiry into free school finances, police urged

MPs are calling for a new police investigation into the finances of a flagship free school in Yorkshire after a Government probe found it had submitted “fabricated invoices” to claim thousands of pounds of public money.

The damning report into the Kings Science Academy in Bradford found that the school had claimed £86,335 from the Department for Education (DfE) which was then not spent on the purpose for which it had been intended. It also revealed that someone at the school had admitted that some of the invoices it had submitted had been fabricated. The DfE said it reported the matter to Action Fraud – the country’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre – in April, but was told last month that no police action would be taken.

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said yesterday it had not dealt with the case. It was unclear last night which force took the decision not to take further action. A DfE spokesman told the Yorkshire Post last week that it had not “met the criteria for further action by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau”.

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Now all three of Bradford’s MPs are demanding answers. The DfE published the damaging findings of its own internal audit into the academy on Friday.

Both Bradford East MP David Ward and Bradford West MP George Galloway said they intended to write to West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner urging to him to look into the case. The Liberal Democrat MP said he would also raise the report’s findings with the Education Select Committee, of which is a member. “The committee is looking at the issue of free schools and academies. I want to make sure that public accountability for the money spent is part of this,” he said.

Respect MP Mr Galloway said he was putting down Parliamentary questions and motions about Kings Science Academy. These include asking Home Secretary Theresa May to urge police to revisit the decision not to investigate the findings and to ask Education Secretary Michael Gove why the report, which was dated May this year, was not published for five months.

Labour’s Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe said questions over the decision of police not to take up this case needed answering.

The Yorkshire Post has been unable to contact Kings principal Sajid Raza since the DfE report was published on Friday. However a statement on the school’s website said there had been no “misappropriation of funds and all expenditure had been academy related”.

It said the academy “is now currently being monitored and challenged by a very effective governing body and there are strong financial control systems in place”.

The DfE said last week it had found serious failings in financial management at the school and demanded that these were addressed urgently. It also said a plan was in place to recover funds from the free school.