Agenda and minutes

Audit Committee
Wednesday, 4 September 2013 7.00pm

Venue: Meeting Room 2 - Level 3, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham ME4 4TR

Contact: Anthony Law, Democratic Services Officer 

Items
No. Item

327.

Chairman's Announcements

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed Jane Bright (Headteacher, Temple Mill Primary School), Stephen Peachell (Chair of Governors, Temple Mill Primary School) and Lawrie Rose (Governor, Temple Mill Primary School) to the meeting and introduced those officers present at the meeting.

 

He explained that the Committee would make a recommendation to the Cabinet on the disbursement of the recovered funds in relation to Temple Mill Primary School and that it was for the Cabinet to make a final decision on this issue.

328.

Record of meeting pdf icon PDF 75 KB

To approve the record of the meeting held on 11 July 2013.

Minutes:

The record of the meeting held on 11 July 2013 was agreed and signed by the Chairman as a correct record. 

329.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Mackness and Osborne.  

330.

Urgent matters by reason of special circumstances

The Chairman will announce any late items which do not appear on the main agenda but which he has agreed should be considered by reason of special circumstances to be specified in the report.

Minutes:

There were none. 

331.

Declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests

A member need only disclose at any meeting the existence of a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) in a matter to be considered at that meeting if that DPI has not been entered on the disclosable pecuniary interests register maintained by the Monitoring Officer.

 

A member disclosing a DPI at a meeting must thereafter notify the Monitoring Officer in writing of that interest within 28 days from the date of disclosure at the meeting.

 

A member may not participate in a discussion of or vote on any matter in which he or she has a DPI (both those already registered and those disclosed at the meeting) and must withdraw from the room during such discussion/vote.

 

Members may choose to voluntarily disclose a DPI at a meeting even if it is registered on the council’s register of disclosable pecuniary interests but there is no legal requirement to do so.

 

In line with the training provided to members by the Monitoring Officer members will also need to consider bias and pre-determination in certain circumstances and whether they have a conflict of interest or should otherwise leave the room for Code reasons.

Minutes:

Councillor Clarke stated that Stephen Peachell (Chair of Governors – Temple Mill Primary School) was a personal acquaintance.

 

Councillor Jarrett stated Stephen Peachell (Chair of Governors – Temple Mill Primary School) was a personal acquaintance.  

332.

Temple Mill Primary School Investigation pdf icon PDF 711 KB

This report relates to the funds misappropriated from Temple Mill Primary School. It appraises Members of the full facts of the investigation and conclusions reached and enables the Committee to review their recommendation to Cabinet regarding the options for the disbursement of recovered funds.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Discussion:

 

Background

 

The Chairman explained the background to this report and stated that the Audit Committee had considered a shorter report on 11 July 2013 where it had recommended to Cabinet option 4 (set up a ringfenced fund to provide training on governance issues for Headteachers and Governing Bodies of all Medway Schools). The Cabinet had considered this recommendation on 6 August 2013 and had decided to refer the matter back to the Audit Committee to re-examine all existing evidence relating to the issues at Temple Mill Primary School and review any new information that had become available before making a further recommendation to Cabinet.

 

The Audit Services Manager explained the reports set out in the agenda, namely the investigation report and probity audits (Appendices 1a-1c to the report), the Schools Finance Scheme (Appendix 2 to the report), the School’s budget returns (Appendices 3a-3e to the report) and the court’s confiscation/compensation letter (Appendix 4 to the report).

 

The Audit Services Manager stated that, in summary, the School Business Manager, Sandra Ross, had pleaded guilty to 23 counts of fraud totalling £212,000. A total of £57,300 had been returned to the school whilst a compensation order totalling £170,999.73 had been awarded to Medway Council by the court.

 

Councillor Jarrett informed the Committee of the Cabinet’s rationale for referring the matter back to the Committee. He stated that Cabinet Members had been lobbied on the matter and that there had been misinformation and confusion surrounding the case. He also indicated that there was Cabinet support for the reinstatement of the School’s Voluntary Fund.

 

Temple Mill Primary School representations

 

Representatives from Temple Mill Primary School addressed the Committee. The Headteacher stated that the School Business Manager’s deceit had taken great skill and care and that this had begun with small sums of money to start with which had increased over time. This had coincided with the establishment of the Children’s Centre on the site which had increased income to the School.

 

The Headteacher stated that the School Business Manager had been able to deceive the School and the Governing Body as well as Education Finance and a number of other professionals. The School Business Manager had been suspended and dismissed following the detection of the crime. It had taken the Police two years to obtain a conviction given the complexity of the crime. The effect on the School had been significant including staff redundancies, the lack of funds to recruit an SEN Coordinator and lack of funds to update the School’s ICT provision.

 

The two Governor representatives addressed the Committee on a number of issues, broadly set out in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the report. The Chair of Governors stated that the Governing Body and staff had been upset by the contents of paragraph 6.1 of the covering report and that these comments could not be found elsewhere in the reports. He asked where the evidence was to demonstrate there had been an “inappropriate and excessive level of trust”.

 

The Chair of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 332.