Belfast Telegraph

School fraud investigation launched

Police are investigating suspected maintenance fraud at a Catholic school in Co Down.

De La Salle High School in Downpatrick is understood to be at the centre of the investigation into suspected wrongdoing involving the installation of heating.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane told the Assembly that investigatory work by the local education board's audit team turned up problems with its maintenance work contract.

She said: "I believe the public will expect no less than full and comprehensive investigations of the facts in this case, and this is what my investigation will ensure.

"It will focus on the operation of this particular measured-term contract and will investigate whether any irregularities in the management of the contract have occurred. As such, it will involve trained specialist fraud investigation staff.

"It will involve also a review of procurement practice and procedures within the board to identify whether the operation of this particular measured-term contract is an isolated case."

Installation of second-hand burners is being scrutinised. The department was alerted by the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) last month.

An oversight team chaired by the minister's permanent secretary will co-ordinate an investigation into wider procurement. The minister also announced plans to create a unified centre for procurement for education.

A spokesman for the board said the sum involved was under £7,000. He added that the board welcomes the investigation and fully shares the department's view that all procurement activities should be undertaken on the basis of the highest possible professional standards.

"The board will be co-operating fully with the review in order to identify as soon as possible any further steps that may be necessary," he said.

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