Posted by Simon Morrison on July 14, 2017
The ESFA have published their most recent Financial Management and Governance Review into The Rodillian Multi Academy Trust, and there are some lessons for all Trusts to consider and learn from. The full report can be found here.
The Rodillian Multi Academy Trust is a Trust with 4 secondary academies, and also has a trading company which provides alternative and vocational opportunities for students in KS3 and KS4.
The ESFA received allegations relating to irregularities in expenditure, and as a result the ESFA visited and conducted a review. As is standard with their reviews the approach is to review relevant policies and procedures, review Trust information such as minutes and source documents (bank statements etc) and also conduct interviews with key people within the Trust.
Two key issues were identified with the Accounting Officer expenditure. The first issue surrounded reimbursement of hotel costs of £7,827 for 78 nights in a hotel near the Trust. There was no formal evidence of this being discussed or approved by the board, and no record that that this was a good use of public funds. The Trust explained that this was due to the Accounting Officer working late at the Trust. The second is that this arrangement ended and then the Trust rented a flat at a monthly cost of £875. Again there was no supporting documentation as to board approval, or consideration of value for money. It is also noted in the report that the payments for the flat are non-contractual payments, and could be classed as an ex-gratia payment and a novel/contentious transaction requiring prior approval.
The finances of the Trust were very tight and errors were made in budget returns. Also a new academy joined the Trust, bringing with it a deficit. These two factors meant a new budget should have been prepared and reported to the ESFA.
A number of contracts were reviewed and it was identified that there was no evidence the procurement exercises had taken place or the OJEU rules had been considered.
A contract was agreed for alternative and vocational services which were to be provided on behalf of the trading subsidiary. The contact however was signed and entered into by the Trust itself. This meant that the benefit of the subsidiary being to limit the liability was lost and the liability for the contact remained with the Trust. The contact itself was also for 5 years whilst the contract discussed and reviewed by the Trust board was for a shorter period.
There were a number of issues noted, including that each academy had different procurement procedures rather than standardised procedures. For a number of transactions tested, supporting documentation could not be provided.
There was also £362.60 spent on train tickets for two members of SLT to attend Cheltenham races. This was to be reimbursed by a supplier, however there was no evidence that they had been reimbursed. Additionally there was no policy or register for gifts and hospitality.
Some leases were identified that were in fact finance leases due to the term of the lease covering significantly all of the useful life of the asset. This was a breach of the AFH as it resulted in the lease being classified as a finance lease.
This is just a summary of the key points raised. We recommend that you review the full report and consider if there are any issues that may affect your Trust.
If you require any further guidance please contact your usual Bishop Fleming contact.