Private schools overpaid grants after exaggerating student numbers, audit shows

Private schools overpaid grants after exaggerating student numbers, audit shows

Some private schools received $1.4m more than they were entitled to last year by overstating their student numbers, an audit shows.

The report by Queensland’s Auditor-General, Andrew Greaves, found that none of the four private schools surveyed could “readily substantiate” their student numbers with complete documentation or accurate reports from their student databases.

The audit follows a court case involving a private school that received about $8.5m more in Commonwealth and State grants than it was eligible to receive.

Student survey forms sent by the schools audited to the Department of Education and Training (DETE) were said to contain arithmetical errors and the inclusion of non-eligible students, which hiked the schools’ enrolment figures.

The report found the issue had remained undetected “or, where detected, has been left unaddressed” by the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board (NSSAB) due to systemic weaknesses.

“The board and DETE are not ensuring that recurrent grants to non-state schools are being allocated accurately,” the report stated.

“This means that some non-state schools are receiving more recurrent grants than they are entitled to at the expense of other non-state schools. We estimate $1.5m has been misallocated in 2014.”

The audit office said the state’s private schools require better guidance on keeping correct records and a more efficient checking system.

“The lack of a grant agreement between DETE and the governing bodies of the non-state schools reduces the accountability for the grant program,” the report said.

“It diminishes DETE’s ability to recover monies paid for non-eligible students.”

About 480 private schools share more than $500m in recurrent state funding, the report found.