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School fraud inquiry 'complex', say police

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

By Fran McElhone

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A POLICE investigation into whether salary fraud took place at the city's largest school has been described as "complex" by officers.

In November the Echo revealed officers had been investigating since July whether any fraudulent activity has taken place at West Exe Technology College.

A letter from Shaun Sawyer, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, to Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw confirmed officers are investigating whether any fraudulent activity had taken place under the leadership of former executive head Steve Maddern and former chair of governors Paul Smith.

County council officials informed police about issues raised in an internal audit report it conducted into the financial management of the school.

A spokesman for the police authority has now confirmed that the investigation involves two officers, is "relatively complex" and inquiries are continuing.

Their inquiry followed a damning report which uncovered years of financial mismanagement under the leadership of former executive headteacher Steve Maddern.

The report criticised the close relationship between Mr Maddern and Mr Smith.

It stated that Mr Maddern's "significantly higher than normal" salary of £156,000 came about after he, at the request of Mr Smith, produced what is described as "misleading" information with regard to national pay scales and potential pay rises. The £86,000 salary of his wife Beverley, who was senior deputy headteacher, was also deemed excessive by auditors.

Mr and Mrs Maddern both resigned from their posts in the spring. Police confirmed their enquiry started in the summer following allegations of theft of school property and fraud.

A police spokesperson confirmed in November that the allegation of theft of school property had concluded and "due to insufficient evidence, no further action is being taken".

The investigation included officers taking statements and searching an address.

However, the allegation of salary fraud is being investigated further. Mr Sawyer confirmed police investigations were running in conjunction with Devon County Council auditors and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The school's governing body, led by chair of governors Peter Scott, is seeking legal advice into whether any part of Mr and Mrs Maddern's salaries can be recovered. The governors are also waiting to find out if their pensions can be adjusted.

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