We've waited a long time for the outcome of this trial, but it finished today with a guilty verdict on ten A4e employees in Slough (three more were acquitted). There's a brief write-up on the BBC news website and a better one on the Slough Express site.
They were working on a lone parent mentoring programme called Aspire to Inspire (I kid you not) which paid A4e for job outcomes in much the same way as the Work Programme. The convictions are for fraud and forgery, with two of them also guilty of conspiracy. The local paper says that "The fake claims were discovered though a whistleblower report, which led to an investigation by the department of Work and Pensions and Thames Valley Police," whereas Andrew Dutton, A4e's boss, has always claimed that A4e found the fraud themselves. Whichever, as we suspected, the motive was to claim the bonuses the company offered for successful job outcomes. "Financial rewards had been introduced," said the police spokesman, and pointed out that, "The money they fraudulently claimed came from the taxpayer and just over £1.3m was paid to A4e between 2008 and 2010 for their implementation of this contract."
A4e announced some time back that they no longer offer individual bonuses. A couple of years ago they seriously annoyed many manager-level staff by withdrawing all bonuses, which meant something like a 20% pay cut. It also has to be remembered that this was a paper-based claims system, which was wide open to fraud without rigorous auditing. All you had to do was fill in the claims form with a fictitious job and put a false signature on it. Clearly, this A4e office didn't do it occasionally; they thought they could get away with it on a grand scale.
Sentencing has been deferred until 30 March.
This isn't on the scale of the fraud by G4S and Serco. But it's bad enough.