NAO investigates colleges

15 Apr 99
Serious financial irregularities at a further education college in Cheshire could be occurring in colleges across the country, the National Audit Office warned this week.

16 April 1999

An NAO investigation into alleged irregularities at Halton College has revealed 'weaknesses in financial controls' and confirmed that the college had claimed funds it was not entitled to.

The college will have to return £7m to the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) after allegations of extravagant and irresponsible use of public funds were substantiated, following two separate investigations by the FEFC and the NAO.

Halton had falsely claimed for franchised courses and for students living in Scotland who were not entitled to grants in England.

Its principal, Martin Jenkins, and deputy principal, Jenny Dolphin, remain suspended. The NAO said overseas trips by the pair were out of proportion to the benefits to the college. Between them, in the past five years, Jenkins and Dolphin had spent nine days short of a whole calendar year out of the college and had attended most of the trips abroad together.

NAO comptroller and auditor general Sir John Bourn said a survey of a quarter of all colleges suggested similar problems could exist around the country.

Halton has agreed to repay the overclaimed funds.


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