Police launch fresh probe into March-based FACT to look at allegations raised by new management board spanning six year period

PUBLISHED: 13:31 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:42 27 March 2019

An independent report commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council into the running and awarding of home to school contracts to Fenland Association for Community Transport  revealed major issues over procurement, membership numbers and cross subsidisation of commercial and community contracts. Today a police investigation was revealed into alleged fraud. Picture(s): ARCHANT

An independent report commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council into the running and awarding of home to school contracts to Fenland Association for Community Transport revealed major issues over procurement, membership numbers and cross subsidisation of commercial and community contracts. Today a police investigation was revealed into alleged fraud. Picture(s): ARCHANT

Archant

An alleged fraud spanning six years at Fenland community transport provider FACT is being investigated by Cambridgeshire police.

FACT, HACT and ESACT audit committee report from Shire Hall on Tuesday, July 31. Today Cambs Police revealed the new management has called them in to examine allegations of fraud covering a six year period. Picture: HARRY RUTTER / Archant 2018FACT, HACT and ESACT audit committee report from Shire Hall on Tuesday, July 31. Today Cambs Police revealed the new management has called them in to examine allegations of fraud covering a six year period. Picture: HARRY RUTTER / Archant 2018

Police said the inquiry is “ongoing” but they have appealed for anyone with information to get in touch.

Detectives had previously opened and closed an investigation into FACT but at the time did not go through its accounting procedures, processes and payroll details.

Since being called in by the new management team, police have used IT experts to analysis payment data and to verify expenditure of an organisation that enjoyed a multi million pound turnover.

Cambridgeshire Police was alerted by the new management team at the March based headquarters of Fenland Association for Community Transport following concerns over what appear to be major discrepancies in the organisation’s accounts. The inquiry also includes running of the Huntingdonshire and East Cambridgeshire associations controlled by FACT.

Editor John Elworthy, who has covered the allegations made against  FACT, HACT and ESACTaddressed the audit committee of Cambridgeshire County Council last July. Today detectives revealed they have re-opened an investigation into the community transport provider at the request of the new management board. Picture: HARRY RUTTER / Archant 2018Editor John Elworthy, who has covered the allegations made against FACT, HACT and ESACTaddressed the audit committee of Cambridgeshire County Council last July. Today detectives revealed they have re-opened an investigation into the community transport provider at the request of the new management board. Picture: HARRY RUTTER / Archant 2018

It is understood that the concerns relate to transactions during the previous period of management under Jo Philpott.

Mrs Philpott was manager of FACT until last summer when she was forced to quit in the wake of a £200,000 inquiry commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council that concluded the organisation had falsely used funds meant for community transport to establish a fleet of up to 70 buses to operate commercial work, mainly undertaking home to school contracts.

The cross subsidisation of the commercial fleet was accepted by the audit inquiry and has resulted in FACT being put at risk of repaying hundreds of thousands of pounds to the county council.

However the new management board – working with newly appointed accountants and county council finance experts – are understood to have discovered numerous other irregularities that have prompted the police investigation.

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Constabulary said: “On January 15 we received reports of alleged fraud concerning Fenland Association of Community Transport.

“The allegations relate to a time period between 2012 and 2018.

“The investigation is ongoing. No arrests have yet been made.

“Anyone with information concerning this investigation should call police on 101 quoting 35/3922/19.”

Mrs Philpott has been approached for comment on the police investigation although after last year’s audit committee she said: “We have listened to incorrect facts. We have done other work to fund and address any losses made.

“The committee should consider and care about our passengers like we do.”

Gary Christy is the new chairman of the board at FACT and said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the police investigation.

However he confirmed the decision to contact them was made after some months spent looking at the complexity of the community transport provider.

He is pledged to scaling back its commercial arm and focusing more on the needs of its dial-a-ride passengers.

Dave Humphrey, the taxi drivers’ representative who worked for six years compiling the information that prompted the county council audit, also declined to comment on the police investigation.

“It would be wrong for me to add anything to what the police have already told you,” he said.

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