THE head teacher of a flagship free school has been arrested by police investigating allegations of fraud, the Yorkshire Post understands.
West Yorkshire Police arrested a 41-year-old man yesterday morning in connection with a probe into the Kings Science Academy, in Bradford, which was launched by detectives last year.
The police did not name the man but the Yorkshire Post understands it was the school’s principal Sajid Raza. He was later bailed pending further enquiries.
The school has been at the centre of controversy since it emerged last year that the Department for Education (DfE) had found it submitted fabricated invoices to claim thousands of pounds of public money. The arrest has added to the pressure faced by the DfE following a Yorkshire Post investigation into why the Government failed to ensure police investigated the matter for six months.
West Yorkshire Police were only passed the case after the allegations about the free school were leaked to the media.
A DfE internal audit investigation report, dated May of last year, but only published in October after it was leaked, said the school had submitted fabricated invoices. It recommended the matter be passed to police.
The DfE issued a statement with the report on October 25 which said that police had been informed and decided to take no action.
A week later, however, it emerged no police investigation had actually taken place because the case had only been treated as an information report.
The Government then said a mistake by Action Fraud, a national fraud reporting centre, meant the case had been passed on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau as being for information. Action Fraud was said to have notified the DfE of this mistake and apologised for it on November 1.
Last month the Yorkshire Post obtained documents which showed that in fact the DfE knew in September that the matter was only being treated as an information report. An e-mail exchange between the DfE and Action Fraud on September 5 shows the department was told that more information would be needed and that the case would need to be to reported as a crime in order for police to be able to investigate.
Seven weeks later the DfE put out a statement which said that police had been informed and decided to take no further action.
The Yorkshire Post revelations led to shadow education Minister Kevin Brennan and Bradford East Liberal Democrat David Ward accusing the DfE of misleading the public and MPs over the status of the police investigation.
Last night Mr Brennan said: “I do not want to comment on an ongoing police investigation but this emphasises the need to get to the bottom of why the DfE failed to properly report this matter to police for months. That is a real scandal.”
Mr Ward asked Education Secretary Michael Gove in Parliament earlier this week what steps he had taken in regard to the free school’s principal following the DfE audit into the school. Mr Gove said principals’ performance was the responsibility of schools’ governing bodies.
The Yorkshire Post was unable to contact anyone at the Kings Science Academy yesterday.
In November, three men were interviewed under caution over the matter by West Yorkshire Police.
Det Supt Lisa Griffin, head of crime for Bradford District, said of yesterday’s arrest: “As part of West Yorkshire Police’s ongoing investigation into matters at Kings Science Academy, Bradford, a 41-year-old man has been arrested at premises in Bradford and is currently being questioned in relation to suspected fraud offences.” The man was later bailed.
The DfE said it acted as soon as it received allegations of wrongdoing at Kings Science Academy. “We formally investigated and referred the case to Action Fraud.
“This resulted in a police investigation which is ongoing.”