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Flagship free school trio found guilty of defrauding Department for Education

The principal, financial director and teacher at a flagship free school have been found guilty of defrauding the Department for Education (DfE) out of around £150,000.

A jury today convicted Sajid Husain Raza, 43, Daud Khan, 44, and Shabana Hussain, 40, of fraudulently obtaining the cash from government grants to set up Kings Science Academy, in Bradford.

The school was one of the first waves of free schools to open in 2011, and was visited by then prime minister David Cameron (pictured above with Raza) in its first year, who said he was “very impressed”.

Raza, the school’s founder, was convicted of four counts of fraud, three counts of false accounting, and two counts of obtaining money by deception. The court previously heard he used some of the school’s grants for mortgage repayments.

His sister, Hussain, a teacher at the school, was convicted of one count of fraud and one count of obtaining property by deception. And Khan, the finance director, was convicted of two counts of fraud and three counts of false accounting.

Peter Mann, the head of the complex casework unit at the Crown Prosecution Service in Yorkshire and Humberside, said Raza’s “motive” was clear – adding: “He was in considerable financial difficulties as his buy to let business had been running at a considerable loss.”

“In setting up Kings Science Academy, Raza deliberately set about defrauding the [DfE] of approximately £150,000 by creating false invoices, submitting fraudulent expense claims and paying himself an inflated salary.

“Far from being a model school, Raza treated the academy like a family business, employing his relatives there and, for at least the first 12 months, operating with no proper governance. His co-defendants were also drawn into this criminality.”

He said Hussain received “unlawful payments” and Khan helped to falsify documentation, saying the trio “treated public money as their own” and fabricated documents to cover their tracks when challenged.

Jon Morgan, senior investigating officer detective superintendent from West Yorkshire Police, said the trio acted “selfishly and dishonestly” and stole thousands of pounds of public money intended for the academy.

He thanked all those who “helped uncover their unscrupulous activities and brought them to justice”.

The trio are due to be sentenced next month.

 

 



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6 Comments

  1. I’ve got a good idea. Let’s open up more free schools!

    Or, perhaps, some caution should be exercised.

    Someone should tell them (the DfE) that this policy is not working. How many tales of greed, incompetence, discriminatory behaviour, embezzlement and downright fraud will it take before the bulk of the press turn against this idea?

    Who will you attract to open up free schools if the financial and regulatory controls are so badly applied? Some will be laudable educators … and some won’t. What’s worrying, is how many sharks are circling in this little pond. I’m sure Local Authority schools got up to these sorts of shenanigans but you would think that a flagship policy would be better run.

    Must go, I’ve got to eat my lunch in isolation.

    • And don’t forget employing family members, using the academy’s credit card without sufficient oversight, setting up a complex structure which makes it difficult to track the money and increases the perception of wrongdoing.
      Re LA schools: it’s true heads of LA schools could behave in this way but the likelihood of their being found out is higher. That’s because LA schools’ accounts have to be consolidated into LA accounts and form part of the LA audit. Each LA schools has an LA-appointed governor who might take a dim view of a head appointing his/her son/daughter, niece/nephew etc, spending thousands on ‘hospitality’ and the like or bunging a contract to a someone close to the head. When Greg Wallace gave an IT contract to his then partner while head of an LA school, he decided to resign when his LA began an inquiry and withdrew the head’s power over finances. http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2013/11/one-of-goves-seven-samurai-commits-hari-kari
      But who would do this in academies? The LA can’t intervene and the auditors would likely pass the accounts if they didn’t know the recipient of a contract was the head’s partner.

    • Further to my comment above, in 2012/13, there were 88 counts of internal fraud discovered among the thousands of LA schools. These amounted to £1.9 million. That’s about £24k per school. Reprehensible, yes, and I hope those responsible were sacked. But Barnfield Federation’s claim of £1m for non-existent pupils accounts for just over half of the total fraud in LA schools. And Raza’s £150k is far more than the average £24k per LA school. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/182368/response/475657/attach/3/J%20Downs%2020130067382.pdf

  2. well, that’s charming; when will the money be repaid to the state (taxpayer) funded school from where it was stolen?

    Michael, Nicki and now Justine as well as Baron Nash should be embarrassed, the education system is out of control, the DfE has breached its duty of care at least in this case and I’ll wager this is the thin end of a wedge.