Last Thursday Liam Byrne asked Chris Grayling "if he will publish all (a) internal correspondence of his Department and (b) correspondence with other Departments relating to the allegations of fraud at A4e." The answer was: "The Department cannot publish information relating to the current allegations of fraud as this is a police matter and investigations are ongoing. " Which is very convenient. The police investigation into one local incident, along with the DWP's investigation into "all relationships" with A4e would appear to close down all discussion of the subject for the foreseeable future. And now we learn that the Skills Funding Agency is conducting its own review of contracts with A4e for prison education. The SFA said: "The Agency has decided that Agency auditors will work alongside A4e’s auditors to complete this exercise and provide additional assurance to the Agency that contracts are being delivered in accordance with our requirements. In the current context the Skills Funding Agency is vigilant and continues to monitor the situation very closely.” Good. But again, this seems to put on hold the airing of concerns. All those MPs who received evidence and complaints from clients and staff of the company will have handed their dossiers to the DWP. And what of the journalists who were eagerly soliciting stories? Has the official investigation closed down their interest? Are editors afraid that publication could be seen to prejudice the process? Or have they just got bored with the subject?
Maybe they are right. Critics of A4e could scarcely have asked for more than has happened lately. So should we take a step back, shut up for a bit, and wait for the results of the investigations? There shouldn't be too long to wait. The SFA needs to get the new contracts up and running. And the DWP can't afford to let this drag on until the WP figures have to be published. For the government this is about damage limitation, and we would be very surprised if any drastic action resulted. So what now?