Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Former college boss cleared of fraud calls for inquiry

St Brycedale Campus formerly Adam Smith College now Fife College Image copyright Google
Image caption Adam Smith College is now part of Fife College after a merger with Carnegie College in 2013

A former senior college manager who was cleared of fraud is calling for a Holyrood inquiry into what happened to be re-opened.

Leigh Berridge and her colleague were accused of falsely acquiring £3m in EU money.

Ms Berridge, 46, was a director at the former Adam Smith College in Kirkcaldy and lost her job.

The college's successor, Fife College, said it was inappropriate for it to comment.

Ms Berridge, from Cupar in Fife, was told last month that no charges against her would be pursued after two years of criminal investigations.

The mother-of-two is calling for Holyrood's Public Audit Committee to re-open a report on the college after parliament reconvenes.

Ms Berridge was accused of inducing the Scottish government to hand over the cash to Adam Smith College in Kirkcaldy, Fife between 2008 and 2012.

She was arrested at her home in the village of Pitlessie, Fife in December 2013.

The college was said to have obtained £3.3m of cash from the Scottish government that it was not entitled to, with an attempt to get another £127,000.

Audit committee

The Auditor General laid a report into Adam Smith College before the Scottish Parliament in October 2013.

At the time the Scottish Parliament's Public Audit Committee agreed to defer its consideration of the report until criminal investigations had been concluded.

Ms Berridge, who is considering legal action, believes a parliamentary investigation would clear her name and that of a colleague who also faced criminal investigations.

She said: "I lost my job, a job that I loved and was very good at. This whole investigation started because of alleged institutional bullying and harassment."

Ms Berridge was charged along with Anna Milligan, one of the college's business development managers. Ms Milligan's charges were dropped in February this year.

"For Anna and I to have been accused of being part of a criminal conspiracy and be arrested in my own home has been hugely traumatic and detrimental to myself and my family.

"People still have questions about what went on. I still feel I need to clear both my name and that of my colleague. That is why I want the Audit Committee to look again at the Section 22 report. All details of precisely what happened and who is accountable must now come into the public domain."

'No individual gain'

At the time the charges against Ms Berridge were dropped, the Crown Office said: "The Crown raised criminal proceedings against Anna Milligan and Leigh Berridge, charging them with operating a fraudulent scheme by which Adam Smith College, Kirkcaldy, falsely claimed EU funding from the Scottish government.

"No individual gained financially from the scheme, and the investigation was complex, involving detailed scrutiny of the college's finances and systems of management and administration.

"As further evidence came to light, it became clear that there was no longer sufficient evidence to continue criminal proceedings."

Four people were initially investigated - a 50-year-old man and three women aged 44, 49, and 58. The allegations related to the period between 2008 and 2012.

Adam Smith College is now part of Fife College after a merger with Carnegie College in 2013.

A spokeswoman for Fife College said it would be inappropriate for it to make any comment on the matter.