New fraud probe into work firm A4e

 

The Government has launched an investigation into an allegation of attempted fraud against welfare to work company A4e, it was announced today.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it had been made aware of an allegation of attempted fraud in relation to a Mandatory Work Activity contract with the firm, which is already facing a police investigation in relation to previous allegations.

A statement said: "As a result of this new allegation, DWP has immediately commenced its own independent audit of all our commercial relationships with A4e.

"We have required A4e to make available all documentation which our auditors may require and provide full access to interview any A4e employees. This is separate from the independent review of internal controls which A4e has previously announced.

"The chief executive of A4e was informed of this at a meeting with a senior DWP official earlier today.

"We have made it absolutely clear to A4e that we take this matter very seriously, and that if, at any point during the audit or thereafter, we find evidence of systemic fraud in DWP's contracts with A4e, we will not hesitate to immediately terminate our commercial relationship."

A4e said: "The board has made consistently clear in all previous statements that we take any allegations of fraudulent or otherwise illegal activity extremely seriously. There is absolutely no place for this type of misconduct at A4e.

"We obviously acknowledge the concerns raised by DWP, and we welcome and will co-operate fully with their planned investigations.

"A4e has more than 3,500 staff and operates out of 200 offices in the UK. From December 2005 to date, nine cases relating to A4e have been referred to the Department of Work and Pensions to review claims submissions.

"Of these nine referrals, one, dating back to May 2008, resulted in the prosecution of an individual member of A4e staff, which was widely reported at the time.

"Another is the case now being handled by Thames Valley Police. In each of the remaining, closed cases, the DWP's view was that these were not incidences of malpractice.

"The board has asked White & Case LLP to lead an independent and thorough review of A4e's controls and procedures. That process will be carried out concurrently, and all findings will be provided to DWP."

A4e also announced that a former senior civil servant had been appointed chairman following the resignation last month of Emma Harrison, who also quit her role as the Government's "family champion". At the time she denied any financial impropriety or that she improperly benefited from the receipt of taxpayers' money.

Sir Robin Young, who has been on A4e's board since 2007, was permanent secretary at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport from 1998 to 2001, while from 2001 until 2005 he was permanent secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry (now the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills).

More than 24,000 people have been through the Mandatory Work Activity programme since it was launched last year, involving a four-week placement including maintenance work on houses, renovating furniture or supporting charities.

A number of organisations from the private and voluntary sectors are involved in delivering the scheme, which the Government said was aimed at getting people into a working routine if they needed an additional "push" to find a job.

Anyone failing to complete a placement without good cause lose their Jobseeker's Allowance for at least three months.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents staff in job centres and private employment contractors, said: "We welcome the Government's response to these fresh allegations of fraud which, if founded, should not only spell the end of A4e's involvement but also surely cast serious doubt on the role of the private sector in welfare schemes.

"We believe it is fundamentally wrong for private companies to be making a profit from delivering such vital public services, and instead of seeking to blame and punish people for being out of work, ministers should be helping to create jobs to get our economy moving again."

PA

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
film
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Goalkeeping howler allows Man City to scrap a draw – but Premier League title is Liverpool's to lose
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Consultant – Building Management

up to £45,000 + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Green ...

Senior Industrial Energy Consultant

Up to £45,000 + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Green ...

Mechanical Building Services Energy Engineer

up to £45K basic + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Gr...

Building Services Energy Engineer

up to £45K basic + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Gr...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal