Police are probing financial irregularities at the body responsible for Catholic schools in Northern Ireland.
The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), which is the advocate for Catholic maintained schools and is the largest employer of teachers in Northern Ireland, has handed over internal documents to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
This paper understands that the body, which receives £4m annual funding from the Department of Education, has identified issues over expenses and subsistence claims.
A former employee, who is at the centre of the investigation, could not be contacted last night.
It follows the findings of an internal audit that was carried out for Holywood-based CCMS by the North Eastern Education and Library Board.
The Northern Ireland Audit Office also flagged up anomalies through the National Fraud Initiative.
A spokeswoman for CCMS said: “CCMS initiated an internal audit to investigate and report on a matter of governance.
“This matter has been handled in accordance with council policy; this included referral to Council’s internal audit service, which is provided by the North Eastern Education and Library Board.
“The report highlighted some issues which may require further investigation, therefore the Council has referred the report to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It has also been shared with the Department of Education and the Northern Ireland Audit Office.
“In the circumstances it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Audit Office said the “issues” had been identified “through data matching work we carry out across the public service under the National Fraud Initiative”.
These issues, he said, were subsequently investigated by the CCMS and “we are being kept abreast of developments”.
On CCMS’ website under Na
tional Fraud Initiative, it states: “The CCMS is required by law to protect the public funds it administers. I
“It may share information provided to it with other bodies responsible for auditing or administering public funds, in order to prevent and detect fraud.
“Data matching involves comparing computer records held by one body against other computer records held by the same or another body to see how far they match. This is usually personal information.
“Computerised data matching allows fraudulent claims and payments to be identified. Where a match is found it indicates that there may be an inconsistency that requires further investigation.”
The Department of Education, which has been aware of the issue for weeks, confirmed that it has received an internal audit report from CCMS highlighting governance issues.
A spokeswoman said: “This matter has been reported to the PSNI. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
CCMS has a number of roles. These include the management of Catholic-maintained schools through boards of governors. It also plays a central role in supporting its 8,500 teachers. CCMS also has a wider role within the Northern Ireland education sector and contributes to policy on a wide range of issues.