Inevitably the publicity has died down. Liam Byrne has sought to revive it - he's Labour's shadow Work and Pensions Secretary - by claiming that Cameron and the government knew about the fraud investigations at least 10 days before Emma Harrison was appointed, in a blaze of publicity, as Cameron's "families champion". The Independent reports this, along with Margaret Hodge's plans to submit a dossier of whistle-blowers' allegations to the DWP. They get a statement out of the DWP: "We have been clear that if there is any evidence of systematic fraud at A4E... we will terminate existing contracts. We welcome A4E's decision to have a full independent audit. These cases all relate to previous back-to-work schemes. None of these apply to the Work Programme." So define "systematic". But Liam Byrne is on sticky ground rather than the moral high ground, and he knows it. A4e's rise and rise was down to his government.
The Telegraph has the same story, but it also reports A4e's response to the "claims that its staff stole vouchers intended to help the unemployed buy clothes to prepare for job interviews." A4e says that it's the company which buys these vouchers. "'It’s our profit margin that is affected by buying them, not the taxpayer.' He said that A4e was not aware of the alleged thefts and had any such action come to light a “robust” internal investigation would have been carried out." This is a remarkable example of not getting the point.
If you didn't read newspapers or the internet, and depended entirely on the BBC for your knowledge of what was going on, you'd still be largely ignorant of the A4e story. The Mail drew attention to this reticence on the part of the BBC, which ignored the growing chorus in the press following the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee and didn't mention the company until the news broke that four employees had been arrested. Since then the coverage has been minimal. They have had to report Harrison's resignation as "families champion" and then as chair of A4e, but with hardly any background. The Daily Politics, which had Harrison as their guest of the day only a few days before, seems to have taken a vow of silence on the subject. Newsnight mentioned it, but with a tinge of sympathy for Harrison and little background. So why has the BBC been so reluctant to report this? One of our correspondents suggests that it's because Chris Grayling used to work for the BBC. How very cynical! It's been obvious for the last few years that while Emma Harrison popped up on all sorts of BBC programmes, from The Moral Maze to Masterchef, there was a remarkable ignorance in the Corporation about her company. We need some sort of explanation.