Questions over call to fraud centre on free school

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LABOUR has demanded to know exactly what information the Government passed on when it telephoned a national fraud centre in an attempt to report a free school for fabricating invoices.

Shadow Education Minister Kevin Brennan has questioned whether officials were able to fully report the findings of a Department for Education investigation into the Kings Science Academy, in Bradford, with a phonecall.

He has submitted a series of new written questions to Education Secretary Michael Gove including one asking how long the DfE call to Action Fraud lasted.

He has also asked the Education Secretary when he or his Ministers were made aware of the email to his department on September 5 from the fraud centre, “which indicated the department’s reference to Action Fraud regarding Kings Science Academy was being dealt with as an information report rather than for criminal investigation?”

And he is further questioning who authorised a statement the DfE made on October 25 that police had decided to take no further action.

Ministers have said the phonecall to Action Fraud – the UK’s national reporting centre for financial crime – included all critical information from the DfE’s own investigation including information about invoices it suspected had been fabricated.

An internal audit report by the DfE, which the department published after it was leaked to media, says someone at the school admitted some invoices submitted to the Government as part of its lead in grant to help the free school set up had been fabricated.

The report mentions six invoices for the rent of office space, totalling £10,080 which the school claimed for when infact it was not being charged.

It also highlights a list of more than 40 other invoices submitted to the DfE by the school where it say it has concerns they could have been fabricated.

Mr Brennan has asked Mr Gove how many of these transactions were included when the department reported the matter to Action Fraud with a phonecall on April 25.

“It has still not been explained why a Government department wanting to report alleged fraud to the police which it has detailed in an investigation report would choose to report the matter over the phone,” he said. “Ministers say all critical information from its report was passed on, but its own investigation reveals concerns about more than 40 invoices which may have been fabricated.

“Are we to believe that a civil servant was tasked with reporting all of these over the phone? If the department did not include all the invoices it had concerns about it cannot claim to have passed on all the critical information.

“I call on Michael Gove to publish all the records his department holds relating to these matters.”

Bradford West MP George Galloway has already written Mr Gove urging him to reconsider a decision not to request a transcript from Action Fraud or any recording made by them of the call on April 25 after Education Minister Edward Timpson said the DfE did not plan to make such a request.

Mr Brennan added: “The Government is refusing to publish records which would make clear exactly how this matter was reported to Action Fraud and how this reporting centre then wrongly passed the matter on to police for information only. The case for them to do so is overwhelming.”