Avoiding Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) clawbacks
Those academy trusts who were lucky enough to receive Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) grants in 2017 should have spent these monies by 31 March 2018. This is one of the standard terms and conditions of the grant and therefore it is important to be compliant. Non-compliance can result in the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) requesting a clawback of funds – something all trusts will want to avoid.
Of course, there are always bonafide instances whereby the grants received from the ESFA may not be fully spent by 31 March 2018 and these can include:
- Significant delays in the project
- Change in the scope or location of the works
- A request for additional funding
- A reduction in Trust or 3rd party contributions to the project
- Using an underspend on additional projects
In these instances, the key is for the academy trust to ensure that it has followed the proper process to ensure that funding is not clawed back – especially where it has all been spent!
The Accounting Officer should always be kept up to date with the progress of contracts and this should be fed into the Board as well. If there are any doubts with regards to compliance of the terms, the Trust should make contact with the ESFA as this will hopefully reduce the risk of any clawback issues.
Where there is a change in scope, the ESFA has formally documented what procedures are to be undertaken. These can be found here in the CIF 2017-18 Post Approval Guidance notes. The procedure includes submitting a change in scope request via the CIF portal. So long as the change still meets the original aims of the project then it should be approved. Instances where the change is not necessary or is an attempt to undertake additional works outside of the original project are unlikely to be approved.
If you are ever in any doubt always speak with an advisor or someone at the ESFA for clarity.
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