We reported recently that A4e were happy to publicise the fact that they had a presence at all the party conferences this year. The latest edition of Private Eye reveals that last year, 2012, they were there with a very specific purpose - to lobby on the Transforming Rehabilitation contracts (that's the outsourcing of the probation services). Remember that lobbying means getting access to the decision-makers to push for the business you want. And last year what A4e wanted was to change the contracts to reduce the initial risk carried by the private companies and reduce the penalties for missing targets. Along with other WP providers, they asked for meetings with Ministry of Justice ministers. A senior civil servant, Jenny Giblett, advised against this meeting. It wouldn't look good, given the "reputational damage" suffered by A4e over the fraud allegations. Chris Grayling and two other ministers heeded the advice. But A4e (or their lobbyist) took advantage of the Lib Dem conference to get at Lord McNally, another minister, who agreed to a meeting. The civil servants were in a bit of a panic, and wanted to ensure that McNally was told exactly why it was a bad idea. But the meeting went ahead; A4e gained access ahead of its rivals.
It's not clear whether they got any advantage from this. But it's revealing that government thought that the company was so tainted that the normal lobbyists' contacts should be avoided.