Sunday, 27 May 2012

Round-up of an interesting week

It began on Monday when the Guardian leaked details of the evidence due to be given to the Public Accounts Committee the following day.  They got it slightly wrong.  There were not two whistle-blowers, just the one.
On Tuesday the PAC met.  The Tory members of the committee insisted that the whistle-blower's evidence be held in private.  Somebody went straight to the Telegraph afterwards and gave an account of what had transpired.  This was published on 23 May.  The next day the Telegraph put the whole document containing the evidence given by Eddie Hutchinson on line.
The media used words like "damning" and "shocking" to describe what Mr Hutchinson said, and focussed on A4e.  Essentially, the culture at the company was such that fraud was inevitable and not dealt with properly.  
The government's reaction was confused but angry.  Chris Grayling appeared immediately to accept A4e's line that the allegations were "unfounded and untrue" and that Hutchinson was not a credible witness.  We were left to assume that he was an embittered sacked employee - the usual characterisation of whistle-blowers.  But Grayling's response always skated over the internal A4e report, produced before Hutchinson ever joined the company, which told a similar story.  In any case, it all happened under the old contracts and couldn't happen now.  He even demanded that former Labour ministers release secret papers showing what they knew about fraud at A4e.  But, "We have audited our current contracts with A4e and found no evidence of fraud."  Interestingly, he threw in that it was Ernst and Young which did the audit.  As one of our correspondents pointed out, Ernst and Young part owns Working Links.  Might as well keep it in the family.
I was reminded of an investigation for which I was responsible a few years ago.  The person drafting the report wanted to put, "There was no evidence ...."  I changed it to, "We found no evidence ..."  Quite different.
So where are we now?  The government wants to say that it never happened but if it did it was Labour's fault.  And Hutchinson isn't tellling the truth.  Whatever the PAC says has been rubbished in advance.  The other primes can be relieved that all the attention is on A4e.  The current contracts are fraud-proof, so that's all right.  But now we hear that Meg Hillier MP (left) is calling for "greater openness and transparency" over all such contracts.  The SundayTelegraph today reports the MP, who sits on the PAC, as saying: "A4e is one of a number of companies receiving its only income from the public sector, but we can't follow the public tax pound. It's public money paying for a public service commissioned by the Government. Why would you want to hide anything?"  She added that a good organisation would have nothing to hide.  Public companies are accountable to their investors, so taxpayers should have a right "to know how publicly-funded firms made a profit and should have a say over how companies operate, including how much executives are paid."  We agree.

None of that can change the fact that the Work Programme is floundering.  The best that the government can do is expand its work-for-free programme (see the Observer).   When in a hole stop digging, they say.  But the DWP keeps on digging.


  1. Just click my heels and wish I was back in Kansas...If no wrong has been committed why all the fuss?

  2. why dose it mater who was in power at the time it's A4e being investigated not the government in power at what ever time.
    A4e and any other work's program should have contracts taken away when wrong doing is found out not say well it was under the last government

  3. Petition against a4e's misuse of public money can be signed here:

    The text of the petition is:
    A4e is one company among many which has made huge profits from the contracting out of public services. Some, like Capita, have concentrated on "back-office" services which involve systems more than people. A4e, however, has made its money from contracts which deal directly with people - the poorest people in the country.
    That's not how they put it, of course. They are "improving people's lives". That claim must be examined. They say that they're about "public service reform". You can read all this rubbish on their own website. the Conservatives began the outsourcing of public services, enabling them to sack civil servants and "reduce the size of the state". This has brought no benefit to the public, and it has transferred taxpayers' money, in vast quantities, into private hands. In A4e's case, this means the hands of one person, who has become a very wealthy woman. Money intended to provide services to the those most in need goes instead into the bank account of Emma Harrison. This is now considered normal. We challenge that.

    1. I very much object to this, as it's lifted directly from this blog without, I presume, acknowledgement. It's a pity that the creator, somebody unknown to me called Robert McIntyre, couldn't create his own wording. What he has ended up with isn't even a petition, just plagiarism. As you can tell, I'm cross.

  4. This is intersting, 8 to 26 week placement, 6 months placement.. for no wages “A4E’s Steps to Work programme places those in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance in either an eight or 26-week placement with an employer, with costs covered by the Department of Employment and Learning.

    We’ve currently arranged for four young men from the town to be placed as rangers in the castle over the summer; some of them are interested in tourism and hospitality, some in grounds maintenance and so on, so this placement can cover those areas and a lot more.”

  5. This is harking back to the old New Deal, except that there's no formal training attached.

  6. I thought it was interesting, the mention over the summer.. as if in autumn and winter they will fire them..

  7. David Anthony Penson8 June 2012 at 05:53

    Having read through the Evidence presented by Mr Eddie Hutchinson to the MPs last month, which is still freely available online via the Daily Telegraph website,it is clear to me there is more than enough material here to bring a civil action against the Directors of this so called training company and this is what i intend to do if i can persuade my London based friend to finance it.
    I myself have been in contact with Reading police station to encourage them to extend their investigation at the Slough office to include Reading as this was highlighted as a hot spot of fraud.
    This week i printed off the evidence submitted by Mr Hutchinson and presented it to the manageress of the Bracknell job centre, not that much will come of it as the whole episode stinks of a cover up at Ministerial level.
    I strongly encourage others who have been used by this company to make fraudulent claims to contact their respective local police stations .
    Mr David Anthony Penson Bracknell Berkshire


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