Committee to probe ‘cover-up’ over headteacher’s use of credit card
Concerns about the handling of a whistleblower’s disclosure that a headteacher was misusing a school credit card to buy materials for his own Airbnb property are to be examined by a council committee.
Nation.Cymru reported how the head of Powys County Council’s North PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) in Newtown resigned only after the intervention of Audit Wales. Previously the whistleblower was told by Clive Pinney, the authority’s head of legal services and monitoring officer, that an investigation had failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing.
Another senior official had ordered an administrator at the PRU to cancel its Amazon account, which had been used to make some of the irregular purchases, thus deleting evidence of the transactions. In fact, a member of staff had kept copy details.
In an email to the council’s chief executive Emma Palmer, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said: “You may have seen the recent publicity regarding the PRU unit at Newtown.
There are a number of questions that need answering in light of this matter and we for once need full transparency and openness and not another attempt at covering things up.”
Cllr Vaughan quotes our article and its reference to Mr Pinney’s original assertion that no evidence of any irregularities had been found. The councillor states: “This is a matter of concern to start with.” He goes on to raise concerns about the other officer’s instruction that the Amazon account should be deleted, as well as
to a statement issued to Nation.Cymru in which a council spokesperson said: “The headteacher of the North PRU left his position in the last academic year before an investigation could be concluded.”
Cllr Vaughan said: “There’s still a duty on the authority to complete an investigation even if the officer has left his position. Also this is in contradiction to what was said previously [about no incriminating evidence having been found].”
Cllr Vaughan stated: “As you can see, therefore, there are a number of issues that need serious attention and we as councillors deserve answers. In the first instance I reiterate my previous questions to the portfolio holder and in light of this new information add further questions:
* Can you please confirm why the head of the Newtown PRU unit has left his post suddenly this Summer without the knowledge of the management governors?
* Is it correct that he was buying a substantial number of items on the school credit card?
* What was the total value of these purchases?
* Has anyone checked back on the monthly card bills?
* Have all the items been recovered?
* Has the matter been referred to the police? If not, why not?
* Has an NDA [Non Disclosure Agreement] been done with him? If one has, why ?
* Was an inquiry undertaken by the council’s fraud investigation team, [as stated by Mr Pinney]? By whom [was it undertaken] and can we see a copy of that report?
* Why was there an obvious change in emphasis and response by the legal officer after Audit Wales contacted the authority?
Powys states in this article, that he “left his position in the last academic year before an investigation could be concluded.” Yet there’s a duty on the authority to undertake a full investigation whether the employee has left the authority or not. Also this says an investigation has not been completed yet in the email of 16th Sept by the legal officer it states the matter has been fully investigated. Which is true and correct?
* In light of the reference to another member of staff telling an administrator to close the Amazon account, thus tampering with evidence and the course of justice, what investigation has been done to that aspect and what disciplinary action has been taken?
* In light of all of the above, it is normal practice according to teaching unions to refer the matter to the Education Workforce Council (EWC) if someone has resigned where they would likely be involved in an investigation that could lead to their dismissal. Has this been done bearing in mind that the individual is still today on the approved list of the Education Workforce Council?
* Can we have an assurance that the whistleblower will be fully protected and not bullied or harassed by other officers as a result of this?
* Finally this matter should be referred to the police. Why hasn’t Powys done this?
“I reiterate, It is imperative that there is full transparency about this matter. I as others have had enough of this culture of secrecy and hiding things away in Powys and if we want this authority to gain the respect of its residents it has to be seen to be open. Those that perpetuate this culture need to leave this authority.”
Cllr Vaughan told us: “I have been told that the governance and audit committee will be looking at this matter in the New Year.”
We invited Powys County Council to comment but did not receive a response.
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