The nightmare goes on for A4e and Emma Harrison. It's not clear whether the call to suspend the contracts comes via the Daily Mail, but they report it with glee. Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee which caused all the rumpus, will be "asking the Department of Work and Pensions 'whether, given the allegations of fraud, they will be suspending their contracts with A4e until this matter is resolved'." A Press Association piece, which may have come first, tells us that, "The allegation concerns a very small number of former employees and dates back to 2010. As the investigation is ongoing, we (Thames Valley Police) cannot comment further." The Telegraph also reports the "fraud probe" but not the call for suspension of the contracts. Instead they quote Chris Grayling from an interview on Sky. Typically, Grayling said that it couldn't happen with the Work Programme (suugesting that it could happen with the previous contracts) and blamed the last government.
So what about that call for suspension of the contracts? Hodge appears to mean just the welfare-to-work contracts, rather than all the other lucrative stuff. I don't think it's practical. The most you could do is stop any more referrals until the case is resolved. But the other providers in the areas couldn't take on those clients. They are not geared to double their intake suddenly. While the potential clients might be happy to see the suspension, the government probably wouldn't.
The Express links the revelations about A4e to the whole question of bonuses in the public sector. In an article this morning they bemoan the lack of any links between performance and pay-out and say: "In one particularly offensive example the Government’s so-called “Jobs Czar” Emma Harrison last year received an astonishing dividend of £8.6million through her company A4e, which runs a variety of state employment schemes funded by the taxpayer. Yet for all the company’s colossal earnings its record on finding jobs for its clients is woeful. According to evidence presented to the Commons Public Accounts Committee, just nine per cent of those on A4e’s “Pathways to Work” actually ended up in work, a finding that the committee’s chair- woman Margaret Hodge called 'an outrage'."
Can it get any worse for Harrison and A4e? Perhaps the Daily Politics programme (BBC1, 12.00) which had Harrison on as "guest of the day" a fortnight ago, will mention what has been happening. Somehow I doubt it.
PS. The Guardian has cast a bit more light on the fraud investigation. A4e is reported as stating: "Thames Valley police visited our offices on Friday for a mutually agreed meeting in relation to an allegation of fraud that was identified by A4e's internal processes and was reported to the authorities by the company. The allegation concerns a very small number of former employees and dates back to 2010. As the investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further."