Academy chain spends £440,000 on deals with firms run by CEO and his daughter

The Wakefield City Academies Trust says that 'proper processes' were followed and contracts represented 'best value'

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Another academy chain has come under the spotlight after paying almost £440,000 to IT and clerking companies owned by its chief executive and his daughter.

The Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT), which sponsors 21 primary and secondary schools across Yorkshire, has paid £316,489 to an IT firm belonging to its chief executive Mike Ramsay, its annual accounts reveal.

A two-year contract worth £123,012 was also awarded to HDR services, a company owned by the chief executive’s daughter, for clerking work, the academy chain’s accounts reveal. 

But the WCAT insists that the spending was done through a competitive tendering process. 

Mr Ramsay, the chain's former chairman of governors, is now its interim chief executive following the departure of WCAT's previous boss Alan Yellup earlier this year.

In 2013/14 and 2014/15, the trust paid Hi-Tech Group Ltd, Mr Ramsay's company, to deliver a management information system. The trust says the business won a competitive tender. 

A two-year contract to Mr Ramsay's daughter's company, worth £123,012, ended this summer. Clerking arrangements have now been brought in house. 

Thirteen primary and secondary academies were covered by the contract. The next nearest tender, from four expressions of interest, was in excess of £100,000 more.

Meanwhile, WCAT said the five-year contract with Hi-Tech Group, valued at £183,333, was formed after the trust received five expressions of interest.

The next nearest tender was more than £1 million more expensive than Hi-Tech, WCAT said. 

A statement from WCAT said: "Internal vetting procedures established the contract represented best value in terms of quality of service compared to other ICT support services at other schools. It also represented a financial saving of £38,150 per annum to the Trust.

"The other two contracts with HDR and Hi-Tech Group were put out to tender. Both were the subject of internal and external audits and scrutiny from an Education Funding Agency’s Governance and Financial Compliance focussed inspection.

"Any inference that proper processes were not followed would be wholly inaccurate."

In an additional statement to the TES, WCAT added:

“Our priority is to provide the best possible education for the young people in our academies.

“An Ofsted focused inspection in July, 2015, declared the Trust was making a ‘positive difference to the quality of provision and outcomes for pupils within its academies’.

“This Trust is proud of its record in turning around primary and secondary schools in some of the Yorkshire region’s most challenged communities."

The contracts, the trust added, were "initiated at arm’s length, and in adherence with the EFA Academies Financial Handbook and compliant to financial regulations".

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