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Rickmansworth School's finances probed by government body
Rickmansworth School has been investigated by a government body responsible for examining possible misuse of funds in academies.
The Croxley Green school was visited in September 2012 by the Education Funding Agency’s Internal Audit Investigation Team after an anonymous whistleblower voiced concerns about financial practices.
A report obtained by the Watford Observer does not identify any instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety and makes no suggestion of improper behaviour.
However, on their visit to the school investigators noted the purchase of alcohol on an academy credit card and the delivery of some items to an address that was not the academy’s.
The document also reveals the academy fell victim to a scam relating to the leasing of photocopiers which may end up costing it £28,000 over a three year period.
Among the other concerns outlined is work on the school’s geography block that was carried out by a company that was owned by the premises manager’s brother-in-law.
While this relationship was not kept secret, the inspectors noted all engagement with the company was not handled by an independent party.
The school is understood to have been in possession of the report for some time but its existence has not been widely disclosed until now.
A source close to the school said: “The school got a copy of the report, which it won’t publish even though it said it would.
“There is so much secrecy it encourages you to think it’s a cover-up.”
Among the recommendations the report makes is that financial regulations should be signed off by the governing body as soon as possible and issued to members of staff, particularly those relating to expenses claims, recruitment of family members and the purchase and use of alcohol.
Kevin Flanagan, acting headteacher at Rickmansworth School, said: “The EFA conducted a thorough investigation and did not identify any instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety in our school’s finances.
“The investigation also helped us identify some areas where improvements can be made to our financial systems and we are addressing these immediately.
“The EFA highlighted that the school not only has to follow best practice, as we always have done, but we are now required to evidence that we have done this. As a result, we are introducing new reporting and checking systems and have updated our financial policy accordingly.
“As a school we take the control of public funds incredibly seriously and all funds entering the school are being spent to ensure the very best education for our children.
“We understand that the investigation took place because someone contacted the EFA with concerns about financial irregularities, which the investigation proved to be unfounded. We have found the EFA investigation to be a very supportive process.
“As well as comprehensively demonstrating that there are no irregularities in our finances, they have brought to light some areas of improvement and have helped move the school forward. I am pleased we have had the chance to work so closely with the EFA.
“I am having a further meeting with the EFA on February 27 along with governor representation to discuss our progress on improvements.”
Two weeks ago, deputy headmaster Tim Griffiths left the school. However, a representative for Hertfordshire County Council said his departure was not related to the report.