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.
Apparently over £1.5 million was spent on this 4 month trial (most of the people had already pleaded guilty) and the guilty verdicts were for job claims worth less than £4,000! Good to know that the police and courts are spending their time on things like this and not minor crimes like murder or rape.ReplyDelete
So you're saying they shouldn't have been prosecuted?Delete
With that kind of expenditure and effort any jury will produce a couple of convictions. A lot of the evidence came from a guy who had pleaded guilty to 13 counts and had a deal with the CPS to help them drag others down. Something not right here.Delete
What's not right is your concern to cast doubt on the validity of these convictions. One suspects your motives.Delete
What happened about the £1.3m?ReplyDelete
The number of offences they're convicted of come to nothing like £1.3m - that'll be the total programme - but I assume A4e will have to pay back the money.Delete
@ Anonymous. You have a very strange attitude to the administration of justice. Perhaps you would like to see some sort of cost/benefit analysis done by the public prosecution service with only those cases where the likely reimbursement exceeds the cost of trial being pursued? If so how would you cost the deterrent effect on other possible offenders? How would you allow for the likely result of an increase in "low value" crime because offenders would know that they'd not be prosecuted? You really need to sit down and think a bit before posting here.ReplyDelete
I am surprised that A4E,(not just the employees that committed the fraud) are not responsible for costs,they hired and trained them,they benefitted from the fraud,at least until they got caught,if you are Sanctioned for not meeting your JSA/Claimant Commitment your benefits are stopped,seems a bit twisted!Delete
I have bad news for you, that's pretty much how the system works. (It's why the police give cautions out instead of prosecuting and why some cases come to court and others don't.) The point is that 6 people had already pleaded guilty to 30+ counts so never went to court. 7 people are then taken to court on 8 counts and 6 of those counts are dismissed, most unanimously. The 2 that aren't have a monetary value of £1,700 each. 1.5 million quid is spent and the court is blocked out for 4 months. If you're someone concerned about the best use of public money, this certainly isn't it ....ReplyDelete
The faults in your logic are so glaring that I don't need to point them out to anybody here. Again, I wonder about your motives in trying to make out that this was some minor peccadillo to which a blind eye should have been turned.Delete
''No if's, no buts...!'' Remember this catchy phrase from a series of govt. anti-benefits cheat ads a decade or so ago?Delete
Using the logic of Anon, this should not apply to A4e here due to the high cost of this particular court case.
I wonder how much it costs t prosecute someone accused of cheating the benefits system, esp. if it ends up in court?
Historian, I have to say that I am somewhat disappointed. Your website and your mission have always seem to defend the proper use of public money and yet you are against some really shocking facts that are being mentioned here? Have you ever wondered that there may be more victims than the obvious ones? I thought this was what you believed in, so strongly that it made you embark on your website...Delete
You've become tedious. No more.Delete
I have only posted the previous comment so it seems that more than one 'anonymous' are of the same view. If you really are about 'watching a4e' then ask yourself this question: are you also watching and understanding the context for those who worked for a4e? Get to the bottom of it like you have with a4e.. We, readers of your blog for years, deserve to know that you objective in your views. 'Tedious' isn't good enough coming from you..Delete
I will only engage with you from now on if you get yourself a user name so there is no confusion.Delete
If you have indeed been reading this blog for years you will know that I have never sought to blame A4e staff for the sins of their employer. I worked in the sector (though not for A4e) so I really do understand the context. The odd forged outcome form, especially when the client has got a job but can't get the form signed, might be said to be forgiveable. And I am well aware that the system of financial incentives, as well as the pressure to hit targets, was a feature of this company. In this case, however, the fraud was organised and the culprits can't be excused.
Anon, considering the cost of not only the failed Work Prog., but also it's equally failed predecessors incl. New and Flex New Deal, the cost of this court case pales into insignificance, do you not think? The WP is slated to cost at least £5bn alone!Delete
And considering how many tens of £millions A4e has pocketed over the past nearly quarter of a century, on the back of the taxpayer, do you not think a court case which looking into fraudulent activities within a company that relies wholly on government contracts is worthwhile?
imatt, Who is the court case looking into?Delete
Fraud within a branch of A4e.Delete
Have heard it was not just Slough. Apparently staff worked in different offices across Thames Valley (hence they all come from different towns) and all had local managers....Delete
Maybe not so 'organised' then..?Delete
It was a single contract spread across various offices throughout the Thames Valley region. Initially they all reported to the Contract Manager but partway through the contract the individual Branch Manager became more involved in the performance of the individual in their office and assumed management duties for them.Delete
Hmm I do wonder about the validity of this whole blog.ReplyDelete
They fleetingly mention a whistleblower report then go on to say a4e found out themselves without a whistleblower.... Publishing lies is one thing but when the writer is then presented with truth and fact which contradicts their information they refuse to publish the truth. Someone's in a4e's pocket thats for sure.
Hmm, I go to the trouble of publishing links but you don't bother to read them.Delete
Try the BBC report and you'll find, "Andrew Dutton, A4e Group chief executive, said: 'As soon as A4e's internal systems brought this incident to light in November 2010, we alerted the Department for Work and Pensions and carried out an investigation. We also co-operated fully with the police investigation which today's verdicts bring to a conclusion.'" Indeed, he has said that from the outset.
Now go to the Slough Express report and you'll find, "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."
The two aren't mutually exclusive. It's quite possible that A4e were alerted by a whistle-blower.
I'm fascinated by the reaction of a few people to this case.
"I'm fascinated by the reaction of a few people to this case."Delete
Indeed, so am I!
Maybe the apologists suspect (or know) that this sort of practice is/was more widespread than a few "rotten apples" or maybe it's just a knee jerk reaction to such obvious evidence that the profit motive and public service do not make happy or efficient bedfellows.
Why is everything taken out of context here? I am not making any comments on the case itself or the outcome, simply astounded at the cover up and the reticence of the blogger to publish truth regarding this one element.ReplyDelete
About the fact that there WAS a whistle-blower and this is not being acknowledged by the company, the press or the blogger, yet it was acknowledged in court! I am no "apologist" but my "fascination" with this case as you so eloquently put it is with the cover up of how a4e found out about the fraud.
Okay, I understand what you're saying.Delete
From the outset A4e has maintained that the fraud came to light through their own auditing systems, and they reported it to the DWP. No one mentioned a whistle-blower, as you say. Since we don't have the court transcripts (more's the pity) I can't say what this means. It could simply be that A4e was alerted to what was happening by a whistle-blower and then did their own audit. If you have more detailed information than that, say so (in a Not for Publication comment, if you like).
Why are people wasting time worrying about whether or not there was a whistleblower? The fraudulent activities are the real story here.ReplyDelete
I don't really agree, Judi. Of course the fraudulent activities are what the case was all about. But it matters if A4e suppressed the truth. I'll have more on this in a few days, I hope.Delete
the Spectator has an exceptionally shoddy article on the work programme, approaching fraudulenceReplyDelete