Two Labour MPs have tried asking questions about A4e but have not received answers.The first is Liam Byrne. Yesterday he put in a written question to Francis Maude, Cabinet Office Minister, asking "when allegations of fraud at A4e were drawn to the attention of his Department's Propriety and Ethics team. The answer was: "As has long been the practice, information relating to internal discussion and advice is not normally disclosed." No joy there, then, but I don't suppose Byrne expected anything else.
Last Tuesday Fiona Mactaggart asked "the Secretary of State for Justice what contracts his Department has with A4e; and what the (a) purpose and (b) value is of each such contract." Now, you would have thought that was straightforward. But Kenneth Clarke replied: "The Ministry of Justice has no current contracts with A4e. However other departments do have contracts with A4e that deliver services to offenders." What Mactaggart probably had in mind were the contracts for prison education, known as OLASS (Offender Learning and Skills Service). Helpfully, back in 2008 A4e submitted a memorandum to the Public Accounts Committee trumpeting its involvement in these contracts. On their own website A4e talk about working in 20 prisons with 400 staff on OLASS and providing careers guidance in 7 prisons. It's big business. And apparently these contracts don't come from the Ministry of Justice. So, do they come from the Department for Education? It would seem so.
If even MPs have trouble getting information, no wonder the rest of us struggle.