An employee of Croydon Voluntary Action is to appear for sentencing in Croydon Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to one charge of theft, involving amounts believed to total to more than £70,000.
CVA is one of the borough’s bigger players, co-ordinating the local voluntary sector from its offices on London Road, funded by numerous grants and contracts from Croydon Council and other public bodies.
Joy Henry was employed by CVA in 2007, shortly after being released on parole after serving one year of a four-year prison sentence for a massive fraud while working at the NHS.
No one at CVA had responded by time of publication to Inside Croydon’s questions and request for comment. Steve Phaure, the CVA’s £80,000 per year chief executive, sent an auto-reply to an email, saying just, “Hi, I’m back in the office on 23 August 2017 – Steve.”
Henry is believed to have misappropriated the money largely from rental charges for CVA rooms that she administered, both at London Road and at CVA’s volunteer centre in Centrale.
A friend of Henry said, “No one knows exactly how much money was involved, because CVA has changed its accountant, its book-keeper has left, and it never seemed to have much of an organised, formal invoicing system.
“Joy was overloaded with work, she was always the person on-call in the evening and at weekends, as CVA’s managers kept giving her more and more responsibilities.
“She knew what her record was. She should never have been put in that position.”
In February 2006, Henry was jailed for four years for defrauding the National Health Service of almost £600,000. It was reported at the time to have been the largest ever NHS payroll scam.
Henry created “ghost” employees and paid them weekly salaries, taking a substantial cut for herself. Henry was working as head of the in-house recruitment agency at King’s College Hospital when she committed the fraud between October 2000 and May 2003.
The CVA has been operating for three decades, having been formed from what was the Eldon Housing Association to operate as an umbrella organisaton for voluntary groups and charities. It has flourished thanks to having been awarded council social services contracts in the past and being successful in bidding for voluntary sector grants.
CVA says that its “mission statement focuses the organisation on ‘promoting, supporting and developing effective voluntary action, community development and community activity for the benefit of the whole community within the London Borough of Croydon’.”
CVA continues to work closely with several council-related bodies, including the Health and Well Being Board, the Children and Families Partnership, Croydon Growth Board and the Safer Croydon Partnership.
It has not been possible to confirm that Henry’s appointment to CVA in 2007 was approved by the long-standing CEO, Phaure. When he returns from his holiday, Phaure will doubtless have to address a number of serious questions raised by the case, including how it was ever considered appropriate to place someone with a conviction for fraud into a situation in which they were handling and managing financial transactions involving thousands of pounds of money.
Phaure will also need to explain how the money was able to go unaccounted for over a period of time, as the matter raises serious issues about management procedures within his organisation.
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