Four arrests made in A4e fraud investigation

 

Police have arrested four former employees from the company which holds the Government's welfare-to-work contracts.

The Government has been urged to suspend its Work Programme contacts with A4e, based in Slough, Berkshire, after revelations that it had referred former employees' activities to police.

Thames Valley Police visited the firm's offices in Slough over the claims on Friday, and the force has confirmed that it had arrested four people in connection with the investigation.

A police spokesman said: "Thames Valley Police officers visited the offices of A4e in Slough on Friday, February 17 as part of an allegation of fraud, which was referred to the Force by the Department for Work and Pensions.

"As part of the investigation, four people, two women aged 28 and 49, and two men, aged 35 and 41, were arrested on suspicion of fraud on January 18 from addresses across the Thames Valley.

"They have all been released on police bail until mid-March.

"The investigation is ongoing and at an early stage, therefore we are unable to comment further at this time."

The company is chaired by Emma Harrison, who was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010 to help get troubled families into work.

Its five shareholders were paid £11 million in dividends last year, of which Ms Harrison received 87%.

A4e chief executive Andrew Dutton has repeated assurances that the company has "zero tolerance" towards fraud.

He said: "I will not sit by and let these accusations discredit the hard work that our staff do to support thousands of people into work.

"A4e has zero tolerance towards fraud, and any instance of fraudulent or otherwise illegal activity is completely unacceptable.

"We take our responsibility very seriously, and we are committed to using taxpayer's money effectively and efficiently to deliver the best services to the public."

A company statement added: "A4e employs over 3,500 staff across the UK and overseas, out of more than 250 offices. This incident relates to four people, so we are dealing with a very small number of individuals."

The firm said Thames Valley Police visited its offices for a mutually agreed meeting in relation to an allegation of fraud that was identified by A4e's internal processes and was reported to the authorities by the company.

It said the ongoing investigation concerned four former A4e front-line staff who were working on ESF contracts, and are alleged to have falsely claimed that customers had been placed into employment.

Three of the staff involved were suspended once the allegations had been made and the other had already left the business, but all four have now left, A4e said.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, has attacked the firm's performance record as "abysmal" and said the Government should consider suspending its Work Programme contracts with A4e until the matter was resolved.

But Employment Minister Chris Grayling said that would not be possible under the coalition's Work Programme because private providers were not paid until after six months.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us