An academy chain in Wakefield has paid close to £450,000 to companies belonging to its chief executive and his daughter, figures reveal.
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) has defended the spending for IT services for its schools and clerking work which it says was done through a competitive tendering process.
However the figures have prompted the National Union of Teachers to call for all such related party transactions within academy trusts to be stopped.
WCAT sponsors 21 primary and secondary schools across Yorkshire.
WCAT’s accounts show the trust has paid £316,489 in 2013/14 and 2014.15 to Hi-Tech Group, an IT firm belonging to its interim chief executive and former chairman of governors Mike Ramsay.
It has also awarded a two-year contract worth £123,012 to HDR services, a company owned by Mr Ramsay’s daughter, for clerking work. This contract has now ended this summer and services brought in house within WCAT.
Mr Ramsay was WCAT’s chairman and is now its interim chief executive following the departure of the trust’s previous boss Alan Yellup earlier this year, after being on personal leave since March.
In the year ending August 2015 the trust bought IT support, a software development solution and project management totalling £140,605 from Hi-Tech. In 2014 the figure spent with the form was said to be £175,884
Of the £140,605 figure £101,346 was said to be for software development. The accounts say this was done following a competitive tendering process which Mr Ramsay “neither participated in nor influenced.”
It says that the contract states the services are provided at cost. The Department for Education allows related party transactions provided they are done at cost.
Another £37,193 is said to relate to purchase of “other IT support and supply of equipment to Wakefield City Academy.
WCAT said it has an ongoing contract with Hi-Tech after it won a competitive tender to deliver a management information system.
Five expressions of interest were received. WCAT said the next nearest tender was more than £1m more expensive than Hi-Tech. The five-year contract is said to be valued at £183,333.
The two-year contract to deliver clerking arrangements with HDR Services, owned by Mr Ramsay’s daughter, ended on August 31 this year.
WCAT said it was worth £123,012 and the services have been brought in house. The next nearest tender, from four expressions of interest, was said to be over £100,000 more expensive.
A WCAT spokesman said: “The contracts with Hi-Tech Group and HDR Services 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.”
The NUT’s general secretary Kevin Courtney said:”The NUT cannot comment on the rights and wrongs of this particular case.
“However, the NUT has long argued that related party transactions by academy trusts, in which the trust awards a contract to a company with which a director or a member of their family has an interest, should be ended.
“That would remove any suspicion or concern about the manner in which such contracts are awarded.”