Remarkably unreported this month (outside one Daily Mail report) is that four of private work provider A4e’s staff who ripped off the taxpayer and lone parents have pleaded guilty to 30 acts of fraud and forgery.
I am indebted to FE Week for a report from Reading Crown Court that saw the four admit their crimes and now face sentencing later. It reports:
“Ex-A4e recruiters Julie Grimes, Aditi Singh, Bindiya Dholiwar and Dean Lloyd, pleaded guilty to more than 30 charges of forgery and fraud when they appeared at Reading Crown Court on Monday, February 3.
The case followed a police investigation into financial rewards claimed for helping the unemployed into work through the European Social Fund ‘Aspire to Inspire’ Lone Parent mentoring programme, which ended in July 2011.
It is alleged that they forged documentation to support fraudulent claims for rewards for work with learners who had not found work or did not exist over a period of four years until February last year.
Grimes, 51, of Staines, admitted nine charges of forgery and Lloyd, 37, of Milton Keynes, admitted 13 offences of forgery.
Dholiwar, 27, of Slough, admitted seven counts of forgery while Singh, 30, of Slough, admitted two counts of forgery and one of fraud. No date was set for set for sentencing.
The magazine reports that the trial of eight other ex-A4e defendants, who pleaded not guilty to all charges at Reading Crown Court, including conspiracy to cheat, is expected to start on October 6.
A further defendant, Nikki Foster, aged 30, of Reading, recruiter, was not at court on Monday. She was due to appear later this month.
The magazine also carries a statement from the chief executive of A4e who appears to be remarkably complacent that everything is OK in the rest of the company.
Andrew Dutton, A4e chief executive, said: “I am deeply disappointed that a small number of people who formerly worked for A4e on the Aspire to Inspire contract in the Thames Valley up to 2011 clearly let down the people they were supposed to help, and in turn the taxpayer, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and A4e.
“A4e co-operated fully with the police enquiry, after our own internal investigation first brought these incidents to light.
“Since these events took place, we have augmented our controls and processes to seek to ensure that nothing like this could ever happen again…..
He goes on: “I would also like to say thank you to our 3,000 loyal, hard-working and principled staff who each day deliver public services to the highest standards that help to improve the lives of thousands of the most vulnerable in our society.
“I am intensely proud of what they do and deeply sorry that the allegations have for so long cast a shadow over their good work.”
There is a little bit of amnesia here. I seem to remember a certain Commons Public Accounts Committee report in 2012 following hearings from whistleblowers who worked for A4e among others.
Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, is reported as saying at the time “Where the Government chooses to use private companies to deliver public services it is essential that proper arrangements are in place to prevent and detect fraud and malpractice. In this instance, the DWP’s arrangements for overseeing and inspecting its contractors were so weak that vital evidence on potential fraud and improper practice was not picked up. The Department failed, for example, to obtain from A4e damning internal audit reports produced in 2009 which pointed to instances of potential fraud and malpractice across the country.” …
“If it had not been for whistleblowers, a range of systemic issues would not have been identified. The Department might have identified these issues if it had asked the right questions of providers. The recent investigation into A4e looked at particular allegations of fraud but not at the more fundamental question of whether the company was a ‘fit and proper’ contractor.”
Need I say more! I won’t in respect of the eight other A4e employees so they get a fair trial.