Friday, 17 August 2018

Copland School Six must pay back 'swindled' money to Brent Council

 
Hank Roberts, the union representative whose courageous whistle blowing eventually led to today's outcome

 A former head teacher, who arranged to pay himself a whopping £400,000 in one year, and former colleagues face paying back thousands of pounds they received unlawfully as part of a school bonuses scandal.

Alan Davies, the former Head teacher of Copland Community School in Wembley, alongside former Deputy Head, Dr Richard Evans, former HR Manager Michele McKenzie and former School Bursar Columbus Udokoro were found to have benefitted from the “vast sums” they received in illicit bonuses over several years before Mr Davies was suspended in May 2009.

Davies, who had previously been knighted for services to education, took home more than £400,000 in one year, three times the going rate for the job, and was convicted of false accounting in 2013. He was stripped of his knighthood in 2014 following his conviction. The High Court today (17 August) found that his justifications for the excessive payments were “patently untrue” and “false”.

The purported bonuses to Davies and the others were sanctioned by former Chair of Governors Dr Indravadan Patel and former Vice Chair of Governors, Martin Day, both of whom were criticised by the Judge for “dishonest breach of fiduciary duty”, “wholesale failures” and “reckless indifference”.

Mr Davies, Dr Patel and Mr Day were today found by the High Court to have breached their fiduciary duties to the Council, leading to losses of more than £1million. Dr Evans, Mr Udokoro and Ms McKenzie were found to have been in knowing receipt of payments arising from those breaches of duties. 

The exact sums that each of the six must now pay back will be decided at a further Court Hearing in October.

Cllr Margaret McLennan, Deputy Leader of Brent Council, said:

We are delighted with the verdict as it means the money, which had been swindled, will be returned and can now be used for the benefit of local people.

Davies and his chums were arrogantly paying themselves ridiculously high and unjustified bonuses, including Davies pocketing a whopping £400,000 in one year – which is around three times the going rate for the job.

It has taken years of stamina and determination to win this victory but justice has finally been done.
The verdict comes five years after a criminal conviction was secured against Mr Davies at Southwark Crown Court, who pleaded guilty to false accounting at the school. Copland Community School closed on 31 August 2014. A new school, the Ark Elvin Academy, opened on the same site on 1 September 2014.

Hank Roberts, the original whistle-blower on the case and a member of the National Education Union  Joint Executive Council said:
Brent Council was totally justified and I praise its commendable action in bringing a High Court case against Alan Davies et al. Davies had already been given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years for pleading guilty to six charges of false accounting. He was subsequently stripped of his knighthood. However, none of the large sums misappropriated were ever paid back. Davies received over £400,000 in a single year alone.

Justice Zacaroli’s judgement found against a conspiracy charge; but found that all six defendants had received and or authorised receipt of large sums from the school funds that were totally unjustified. Those in receipt will now have to pay back their ill-gotten gains.

I, and the other school Reps, Shane Johnschwager, NASUWT and John Kubenk, NUT were suspended by Davies and faced dismissal charges after I blew the whistle. Later Davies was suspended and we were reinstated. I, the Unions and the Council have been totally vindicated.

It was tough at the time, but I would encourage all who discover anything similar to whistleblow.

This is occurring far too often especially in academies that have totally inadequate system of financial oversight and control.

To lessen this corruption, all academies should be brought back under local authority control.

6 comments:

  1. Well done to Hank for his tireless campaigning

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  2. An important verdict which vindicates the concerns parents and teachers have expressed about the Academy and Free School Programme. Well done to Hank and the other union activists who put their jobs on the line to stand up for the children and their education. Time to bring all schools back into the local authority and end this reckless experiment.

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  3. It has taken 9 years, but congratulations to Hank for all his efforts to uncover and put right the abuse of power which happened at Copland School.

    Brent's Deputy Leader says that 'justice has finally been done' over 'money which had been swindled' from the Council. It is a pity that such 'stamina and determination' has not been exercised much closer to home, at the Civic Centre.

    No-one would expect a headmaster to abuse his power and make large, undeserved payments out of public funds; but it happened at Copland.

    No-one would think that a Council Leader and Chief Executive would make a large, undeserved payment out of public funds; but in June 2015 Brent Council agreed a £157,610 leaving payment to a Senior Officer who they should have dismissed for gross misconduct nine months earlier.

    Rumours about this in June 2015 led me to notify the Council's Audit and Investigations Team that this possible payment might be a misapplication of Council funds (i.e. potentially fraudulent). The Team was not allowed to investigate my allegations - but if they had investigated them, the payment could have been stopped.

    It was a year before the Council even admitted (in its 2015/16 accounts) that any payment to this former HR Director had been made. The Council's Audit Committee asked for an explanation, and one was provided by the Chief Finance Officer.

    I was one of five local electors who objected to Brent's 2015/16 accounts in respect of the £157k payment. I challenged the Council's "official" explanation, and made a strong case to show that the failure to dismiss Ms Davani and decision to pay her £157k to leave were both linked to her close relationship with the then Chief Executive and Council Leader.

    After 15 months, the Council's auditor accepted the explanation given (a year after the payment) by the Council's finance chief. He did not even ask Christine Gilbert and Cllr. Butt to answer the case I had made against them, or to provide any explanation for their actions.

    They should, and still could, be asked to give, publicly, a justification for what they did (or failed to do) - then everyone could judge whether their explanations are true and honest, or "patently untrue" and "false".

    [If you are not familiar with this matter, and would like further details, see:
    https://wembleymatters.blogspot.com/2017/12/brent-council-and-cara-davani-last.html , posted 31 December 2017]

    There are people at the Civic Centre who know the truth about what happened in 2014 and 2015, in respect of Cara Davani. I hope they will do the right thing, be brave, and follow Hank's words: 'It was tough at the time, but I would encourage all who discover anything similar to whistleblow.'

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  4. Fantastic work Hank from all of us in Norfolk.

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  5. Well done Hank. Still going strong I see. I am well into retirement but still active at Governor level and Forum. Greeting from St.Helens & Newton NASUWT.

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  6. Good news. But what about the other deputy heads who received 'bonuses'? They didn't just receive money illegally but were complicit in the whole dodgy business too.

    And the Mary Fedden paintings?

    Still some unfinished business here.

    Mike Hine

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