Suffolk

RAF Honington criticised in mess charity fraud inquiry

Gates of RAF Honington Image copyright Google
Image caption The Charity Commission said the RAF "failed to adequately protect funds" at RAF Honington's two mess charities

The RAF has been criticised for "serious management failures" after a former clerk stole more than £72,000 from two mess charities.

Zowie Davis admitted stealing the money over a two-year period while working at RAF Honington in Suffolk and was jailed for 18 months in 2016.

A Charity Commission report said the "significant" fraud left the charities in "a precarious financial position".

An RAF spokesman said action had been taken to address issues raised.

Mess charities provide facilities and activities for RAF personnel.

The commission's head of investigations and enforcement, Harvey Grenville, said: "The RAF failed to adequately protect the funds at RAF Honington, thereby allowing an unscrupulous individual to steal significant sums from the mess charities over a sustained period of time.

"The fraud was so significant... it left them in a precarious financial position which could have resulted in their collapse and had a direct impact on serving RAF personnel."

'Ineffective safeguards'

Davis, formerly of Honington, transferred cheques and cash amounting to £72,690 between February 2012 and October 2014 in her role as a civilian clerk.

She pleaded guilty at Ipswich Crown Court in April 2016 and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

The Charity Commission class inquiry found there were "serious governance and management failures and "an ineffective application of basic safeguards" at RAF Honington - and that all the RAF's 72 mess charities had used the same financial control procedures.

Third-party service providers were contracted by the service to run its messes in 2012 to 2013.

At the time, the RAF told the commission "adequate controls were in place to protect charity assets".

After Davis was jailed, the RAF's own inquiry found it had losses of more than £200,000, which started before the new contract arrangements began.

Since 2016, the RAF has made good the losses to the charity funds.

An RAF spokesman said: "We welcome the Charity Commission's report into RAF mess charities, and we have already taken action to address any issues in the report.

"We are committed to ensuring a robust system of policies, procedures and assurances is in place to mitigate against risk."

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