Wednesday, 16 May 2012

What kind of investigation?

There's plenty of coverage of the removal of one of A4e's contracts today, but most of it just repeats the press release.  We saw at Prime Minister's Questions how the government wants to spin the NAO report; Cameron focussed on how quickly the Work Programme had been got up and running.  It's left to the Guardian and the Yorkshire Post to highlight a significant omission.  
You remember that leaked internal A4e report which showed how much probable and potential fraud was going on?  It was important enough for the BBC to break its vow of silence on the A4e issue.  But it wasn't, apparently, important enough for the DWP to want to look at it.  They didn't ask for it.  Margaret Hodge isn't happy about that, naturally, and wants a more complete investigation.  It raises the question of what kind of investigation the DWP thought it was conducting.  The phrases "whitewash" and "damage limitation" spring to mind.  

Another major point in the National Audit Office report is reported in the Guardian.  "...  allegations against A4e represented just under 10% of cases where fraud was substantiated.  Over 40 cases occurred in other back-to-work companies, representing total losses since 2006 of a quarter of a million pounds.  Out of a total of 126 reported cases of potential fraud the DWP concluded that there was no case to answer in 75 cases. Of the remaining cases, the NAO report said, '24 were of false representation [fraud], 22 of non-compliance' and five were still under investigation. The total losses to fraud since 2006 averaged £129,000 a year, which it described as a 'small' loss in comparison to a total expenditure of £829m on employment schemes in 2011-2012 alone."
An unexpected advert on Twitter from Paul Lewis, who is one of the BBC's financial experts.


  1. This sounds like being a little bit pregnant or the old standby,Guilty your Honour but with a really good excuse.As a WP customer(mandatory) getting any answer let alone a straight one is like a dog chasing its tail.In the past the standard response is the dreaded "Black Box" answer,maybe these investigators should look in this Box,I believe they will find it is as empty as the morality of the providers of this programme.

  2. So its ok to break the law so long as its a Small amount.. £129,000 a year is nothing so it isnt a CRIME..

  3. Is it not time all wp providers now get a dwp audit? Only way to get things in the open. At which other companies did fraud happen?

  4. Andrew Dutton's media statement of “These findings demonstrate what I have always maintained to be true – that there is no place for fraud at A4e – and make it clear that A4e has strong controls around its flagship contract, the Work Programme.” Are A4E staff expenses included in this also?

  5. Historian

    I agree with what you are saying but I do urge caution, all the same.

    The present Tory Party is ideologically opposed to any sort of notion of a "Welfare State." That bit is obvious, imho. Apparently, this belief and all of the Tories' propaganda about it are immensely popular with the potentially-voting-Tory-next-time General Public.

    The Lib-Dems do seem to me to be doing a good job of keeping the Tories' wilder ideas about Welfare under a modicum of control (admittedly only because the Lib-Dems also only want votes) but they do seem to be curbing the Tories, all the same.

    Meanwhile, Blair & Mandy seem to be planning a come-back. If there were a General Election tomorrow, I reckon that Blair would win it hands down, just as he did in 1997. People are extremely fickle about how they vote, I suspect. All over Europe, people are now showing that they reject the current notion of "austerity," too.

    It is difficult to see where the real "balance of power" lies, I reckon. Which side will win this ideological battle?

    A4E is not necessarily the arch-villain of the "Welfare Piece," imho.

    Sure, there have been a number of instances of A4E bullying their customers. That is undeniable. Even the NAO say so. It is also true that A4E have acquired a simply terrible reputation for themselves (largely because of Emma Harrison imho.)

    That said, even the Tories have now warned Time on A4E. A4E have been given a breathing space in which to get A4E's act up together. I suspect that A4E will now succeed.

  6. "The total losses to fraud since 2006 averaged £129,000 a year, which it described as a 'small' loss in comparison to a total expenditure of £829m on employment schemes in 2011-2012 alone."

    Remember those anti-benefit fraud ads a few years ago? You know the ones that showed people working cash in hand, on the sly and not declaring that their partner was living with them. The end message was clear - "NO IF'S, NO BUT'S!".

    "The public are fed up with benefit thieves stealing money intended for society's most vulnerable. There are no excuses for taking money that isn't yours." So said John Hutton, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions at the time, 2006.

    A VERY stark and uncompromising warning. Well, surely this has to work BOTH ways at least!!! Or is fraud acceptable within a sector simply because said sector deals with jobseekers?

    1. That was a really nasty campaign by the DWP. Apparently they even placed an advert in the Ryanair magazine sencouraging you grass on your fellow passenger.

      Out of interest, are you still not allowed to holiday outside the UK and Northern Ireland? That always struck me as unfair and unreasonable given the availability of telephones, computers and flights back to the UK for interviews.

    2. you cant even go away for a day without telling your jobcenter! in case a job comes up!!!

    3. AFAIK if you are on the WP you are not allowed a holiday at all.....
      I hope someone can definitely tell me I am wrong on this point.

    4. Back in the 90s when I was unemployed some friends wanted to take me to France with them on holiday. I got as far as obtaining a passport before discovering that I wasn't allowed to leave the country without signing off. I was allowed to go and stay with relatives as long as I left a phone number.

    5. It seems the rules haven't changed - Then scroll on to page 6

      These holidays aren't really a holiday of course, as you are expected to continue to look for work.

    6. How about you ignore the rules. i often go camping between job center signings and work programme interveiws. keep it quite and no one need know. not even the local busy body!

    7. You're not breaking any rules if you're available for work and attend on your signing days.

  7. reading the article on the Yorkshire post, there are some very interesting things.."Investigations were held into every MWA claim from the office in Epsom, Surrey, as well as 20 per cent of all the other A4e claims." Apparently it wasnt the entire southwest that was investigated. It was One area Epsom.. So Because they investigated ONE area, that means every other scheme run by these and others must be innocent. This is looking more and more like a whitewash.

    1. I'm not convinced.

      I'm wondering whether the NAO, the DWP and some of the Primes have joined forces in order to attack Ministers for these monstrous MWA programmes?

      As I understand it, if the Prime considers that a particular customer is not "job ready" then the Prime can/must send this person to the MWA scheme instead. The MWA scheme seems to have been designed to force the customer to do a 4-week work placement. If the customer does not do the placement then his/her Benefits may/will be stopped for up to six months. I don't know what happens if the customer goes to the work placement but the employer throws him/her out before the 4 weeks has expired.

      It seems to me that such a savage sanction might be justified if the customer really is only a lazy, ill-disciplined layabout. However, what if the customer has an underlying medical problem of some sort?

      From a newspaper article a couple of months ago, my impression was that someone in the Epsom office of A4E had made a sane, sensible decision that some of the customers who had been referred to the MWA scheme were simply not job ready enough even to do a 4-week work placement.

      If someone is not going to be able to do a work placement adequately or at all, what's the point of trying to force him/her to do it? How is doing something badly going to improve this person's self-esteem etc? Also, why should en employer be expected to put up with it? It seems to me that trying to force the issue in this way simply creates a lose-lose situation all round.

      Therefore I wonder whether the NAO and others have joined forces in order to attack Ministers for the stupidity of the MWA scheme and the even greater stupidity of the six month sanction?

  8. Is it just a coincidence that the 'token' contract termination was linked to Grayling's own constituency?

  9. They only checked 1 office, in one area, what about the other areas, So because they didnt "find" anything in that one office about the MWA (forget the other 80% they didnt check), that must mean, every single office in the entire country is innocent. The fact they have spinned it to make a statement that ALL offices are innocent in the north west.. That shows to me there is something they are hiding


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