Trust investigation reveals misuse of public funds

Trust investigation reveals misuse of public funds

Trust investigation reveals misuse of public funds following staff trip to Jordan

An investigation into a trust’s financial management has revealed multiple rule breaches.

The damning report into the Dunham Trust’s finances, cites a lack of financial operations oversight, misuse of public funds and internal control weaknesses.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency investigated the Dunham Trust after receiving “allegations around financial management, regularity and personnel issues”.

Investigators found that the trust had paid £22,632, not at cost, to a legal firm which employed a senior partner who was married to one of its head teachers.

The MAT, which has five primary schools across Greater Manchester, also paid £1,100 to allow two of its staff to attend a “compassion summit conference course” in Jordan.

Although the staff paid for their own accommodation and travel, the trust paid £1,100 for the training package and for the teachers to attend the summit in Amman.

ESFA investigators found the trust could not provide a “clear documentary record” of the evaluation and value for money assessment of the attendance on the study tour. The reasons for the expenditure were “unclear, disputed and potentially contentious”.

Furthermore, the board had been unaware of the tour and the cost to the trust at the time, with the Chair informing the ESFA that he “did not consider the expenditure to be appropriate”.

The ESFA found there was “no evidence of consideration of alternatives available”, and that the benefits to the trust of attendance were “indistinct”.

The investigation also revealed that the trust had spent hundreds of pounds on bouquets of flowers for staff and had covered the cost of a £40 parking fine handed out to an employee, which amounted to a misuse of public funds.

The trust also broke governance rules. The ESFA found that three of its members were also trustees, which conflicts with AFH guidance. The investigation also found that trustee meetings were poorly attended and that as a result decisions were routinely deferred.

Jayne Carmichael, the trust’s interim CEO, said: “The recommendations that arose were quickly implemented with a stronger management structure put in place that included a new chief executive officer, finance director and chair of the trustees.”

As a result of the changes, the accounts for 2018-19 had been approved “without qualification”.

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Trust investigation reveals misuse of public funds
Trust investigation reveals misuse of public funds

Trust investigation reveals misuse of public funds