DfE FOI Slipperiness: When an ‘apology’ became a ‘press release’

In a recent letter, Michael Gove claimed the DfE were not to blame for King’s Science Academy escaping police investigation for alleged fraud until Newsnight revealed the case. Gove’s thorough timeline (p.5-8) explains how the DfE had reported all relevant details to Action Fraud – a central police agency – back in April. Unfortunately, the report was mislabeled as ‘information’ rather than a ‘crime’ and this meant the police were not alerted to start investigation. After Newsnight, Action Fraud contacted the DfE, apologised for this ‘administrative error’ and passed it to West Yorkshire Police.

In the letter Michael Gove says “the apology was confirmed in writing”. I was intrigued by this, and wondered if it might explain how the mistake happened. Unknown to most people, in my previous life as a management consultant I did a stint working with Merseyside Police. On improving crime reporting. So I put in a very basic FOI to see if it would shed some light.

Here’s the answer I received:

FOI Relply

Yes. You read it correctly.

“The apology was confirmed in writing” appears to mean “there is a press release in which the apology is confirmed”. In my mind, that’s not the same thing.

I’ve tried contacting the DfE to find out who wrote the press release (was it them? or action fraud?), and to see if any other written confirmation exists. Ideally, a written apology. My clarification email has been treated as a second FOI request so is going to take up to 20 days to answer. I tried phoning the Department yesterday, but so far no answer is forthcoming.

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