An independent fraud investigation into a 9,500-home housing group has uncovered repairs overcharging of more than £170,000, nearly a year after a whistleblower alleged wrongdoing to the Wimbledon Guardian.

Sept 4: Firm investigates whistleblower's over-charging claims

Contractors Keepmoat Property Services repeatedly overcharged for repair work such as erecting scaffolding and fencing to properties run by Circle Housing Merton Priory (CHMP) in Raynes Park, Wimbledon, Mitcham and Morden, a report published today has revealed.

Property investigators Savills found both CHMP and Keepmoat were responsible for the overcharging as part of a £220m five-year contract which began in January 2013.

CHMP said no evidence of fraud was found in the investigation. 

Keepmoat has since agreed to repay the money to CHMP’s repairs and maintenance fund.

The initial investigation was commissioned by CHMP in September after councillors demanded an independent audit into repairs and maintenance following the Wimbledon Guardian’s report.

Wimbledon Times:

HQ: Circle Housing Merton Priory offices in Morden 

The results of that investigation and a secondary wider investigation by Savills Property Services were due to be published on CHMP’s website today.

They include:

- Faulty jobs which should be re-attended by Keepmoat without charge were being classed as new jobs and charged for repeatedly.

- The system for ordering repairs items such as windows or doors was not understood by CHMP staff or Keepmoat, so items were sometimes ordered which were not used.

- Scaffolding was billed for twice by CHMP because staff didn't understand the order system.

- Due to staff shortages and the volume of payments to be checked, payments were being "batch authorised" rather than individually checked.

- All jobs costing £500 or more should be post-inspected by CHMP - only 17 per cent had been post-inspected.

- Of the post-inspections which were completed, they took an average of 119 days, which should have been 28 days.

- Only jobs for social housing tenants, which are paid for by taxpayer-funded housing benefit, were overcharged.

- No leaseholders were found by Savills to have been overcharged out of the 1,100 properties they examined.

Wimbledon Times:

Circle Housing executive director Deborah Upton

Deborah Upton, executive director at Circle Housing, said: "The pricing report has been very clear that there were errors in the way both CHMP and Keepmoat managed the early stages of its partnership contract.

"While the report concluded that no fraud had taken place, we have taken the findings seriously and implemented a catalogue of improvements in the way we work.

"Keepmoat has reimbursed CHMP for the overcharging and we are confident we are moving forward with a more robust system in place to make sure these discrepancies do not occur in the future".

The methodology used by Savills to decide that Keepmoat needed to repay just over £170,000 to CHMP is not yet known.

CHMP’s former director of property services left the company in January, Ms Upton said.

Keepmoat has not yet responded to requests for comment.

The £220m contract also covers repairs and maintance for about 8,600 homes managed by Circle Housing Russet in Kent. Those homes were not examined as part of the investigation.

Ms Upton said this was because Kent had a better repairs record.


Wimbledon Times:

Council leader Stephen Alambritis, who was shown the report last week, said: "Something has gone wrong, went wrong, and they have addressed that. It is unfortunate.

"We will keep a beady eye on them. We want them to succeed for the residents and for the whole of the borough and we'll keep them to their commitments."

CHMP signed up to a series of promises including maintaining homes to a decent standard after the council gave the housing association most of its housing stock in 2010.

Asked why the council's board members apparently failed to hold CHMP to account over its finances and operations, Councillor Alambritis said: "All board members who are councillors have opportunities to ask questions and I hope that they will continue to do so."

He said he considered the investigation to be concluded but that board councillor members would be "mindful" to ask searching questions.


Whistleblowers began to approach the Wimbledon Guardian alleging Keepmoat was overcharging for works in August last year.

An initial audit of 20 homes by specialist surveyors Rand Associates found thousands of pounds had been overcharged by Keepmoat.

The results were known to CHMP in November. But were only revealed in full today. CHMP said this was because they needed to conduct a wider investigation as a result of the audit.

CHMP then said it expected to publish the full results of the Savills investigation in May. This was put back to July, because they said they wanted to brief the councillors and MPs.

But Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond and Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh, who have both criticised CHMP's repairs service, have not yet been shown the report by the housing association.

Last week the Wimbledon Guardian was informed the report, which was sent to us under embargo on Wednesday, would be published on its website today.

Do you think you have been overcharged for repairs on your property? Contact Louisa on 020 8722 6335, or email