Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Are schools doomed to be scammed?

Before the National Fraud Authority ended up on the Coalition’s bonfire of quangos it did a lot of work on raising awareness of fraud. One of its major projects was estimating the total value of fraud in the economy – everything from “blue badge” parking abuse to multi-million VAT fraud. Before the NFA disappeared, it published Annual Fraud Indicators which estimated the loss to the economy of fraud to be £52billion (pdf available).

What has that number got to do with schools? In one month the press reported:

Much detected (and obviously undetected) fraud does not get into the papers. The 2012/13 Department for Education accounts mention a £2m “irregularity” at one academy chain – a Google suggests that the case never got into the press.

The NFA cautioned against its estimates being used for identifying trends. But is fraud getting worse? Quite possibly: while staff will generally be honest and public-spirited, after years of pay freezes and 1% rises, a minority may be demoralised and feel squeezed;  many organisations are struggling to cope with financial pressures so some managers may be tempted to bend rules; greater autonomy for schools creates opportunities but not all are positive.

Are schools doomed to be scammed? In fact, schools can protect themselves through simple steps. But the first step is to recognise that fraud is an issue.
Later this month I am talking at EdExec Live about how schools can protect themselves. Tickets are still available.