SQA faces accounting fraud probe

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is under investigation over allegations of internal accounting fraud, with claims a six-figure sum could be involved

In its latest annual report, the SQA stated: ‘During 2018–19, one instance of suspected financial irregularity was identified and investigated in line with SQA’s anti-fraud policy and fraud response plan.’

The authority’s 2017-18 annual report highlighted two instances of suspected financial irregularity. The report said that ‘these remain under investigation and suitable mitigating actions have been put in place’.

During 2018-19 there was one instance of procurement fraud. This resulted from a phishing e-mail purporting to be from a genuine SQA supplier. The total loss was £2,190, and as a result further staff training was carried out in the procurement team.

The body has now confirmed that a ‘suspected case of financial irregularity’ has been referred to the police. Newspaper reports indicated the amount involved was allegedly a six-figure sum.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said the force had ‘received reports of possible fraudulent activities linked to a business in Glasgow.

‘The circumstances are currently being investigated and no further comment will be made until this is complete.’

A spokesman for the SQA said: ‘A suspected case of financial irregularity has been referred to Police Scotland for investigation.

‘It would be inappropriate for us to comment further.’

Separately, SQA has also come under fire recently over media reports detailing allegedly lavish travel expenses claimed by senior executives on overseas trips, including one for three executives to Saudi Arabia in 2015 which allegedly cost £17,000 and involved business class flights and accommodation in a top of the range hotel.

SQA issued a statement saying: ‘International travel and accommodation bookings are pre-approved, accounted for against set budgets and subject to external, independent audit.

“All costs are recovered through the delivery of commercial contracts.

‘A review of SQA’s domestic and international travel policy has been completed, with revised guidelines and procedures in place. Our revised travel policy ensures all hotels booked are subject to FCO guidelines on cost.’

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