Year-long Cambridgeshire police inquiry into community transport group FACT near an end

PUBLISHED: 12:39 06 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:56 06 March 2020

FACT, HACT and ESACT report from Shire Hall on Tuesday, July 31. 2018. Former FACT deputy chairman Kit Owen is with fomer manager Jo Philpott during a day long examination of the county council commissioned £200,000 PKF report into the running of FACT. Picture: HARRY RUTTER / Archant 2018

FACT, HACT and ESACT report from Shire Hall on Tuesday, July 31. 2018. Former FACT deputy chairman Kit Owen is with fomer manager Jo Philpott during a day long examination of the county council commissioned £200,000 PKF report into the running of FACT. Picture: HARRY RUTTER / Archant 2018

HARRY RUTTER

Hundreds of invoices – dating back six years – form a crucial part of a police investigation into alleged fraud at FACT, the Fenland Association for Community Transport.

Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT

Boxes of files have been examined and invoices cross referenced during a year-long probe that has brought together senior forensic accountants and fraud specialists.

Cambridgeshire Police were first called in by the new board of FACT in January 2019 and the new board began working with specialist accountants and the Charity Commission's fraud investigation arm has been involved in the inquiry.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Police said: "The investigation is still ongoing."

At the outset of their inquiry, police confirmed that the allegations relate to a time period between 2012 and 2018.

Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANTSome of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT

Early on police visited the home of former FACT manager Jo Philpott and removed various documents and a computer. The investigation centres on her time as manager that culminated with an £200,000 audit report commissioned from specialists PKF by Cambridgeshire County Council.

The report considered many issues surrounding FACT, including the potential misuse of state funding to support their ambitious fleet of mini buses used both for community and commercial activity.

County council chief executive Gillian Beasley concluded that "on the balance of probabilities these support a conclusion that false information was created and submitted with intent to support requests for public funding consistent with those findings highlighted by PKF."

Referrals to police included an allegation of fraud over letters submitted in support of grant funding requests and allegations of fraud in respect of a customer survey undertaken by the council in respect of concessionary bus fares.

Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT

However the past year has seen forensic accountancy specialists tackle the overall running of FACT at the time and payments authorised by Ms Philpott.

Former councillor Kit Owen, once a prominent board member, insisted at the time that "the majority of the issues are historic - which we have dealt with".

Cambridgeshire Police would not confirm when their inquiry will end but it is expected that a file will be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service within the next six to eight weeks. Possible arrests could follow.

FACT chairman Gary Christy declined to speak about the ongoing investigation, preferring to discuss how the organisation has reverted exclusively to its charitable roots. New befriending clubs and a community hub with new trustees are part of the visible changes he has enacted since being asked to take over last year.

Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT

"We are running healthily and without grants and all the commercial work that was undertaken previously," he said.

Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT

Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT Some of the reporting by the Cambs Times of the issues at Fenland Association for Community Transport. Pictiure: ARCHANT


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