JHP Training, a Coventry company with 65 branches nationally, falsely alleged that students obtained National Vocational Qualifications, when they had not even attended courses. The claims, which were backed up by official certificates, were made to a government-backed Training and Enterprise Council.
Under the employment training system students are continually assessed and training agencies receive payments from the TECs for attendance and for each vocational qualification level students attain.
But critics say that the scheme is riddled with oportunities for fraud. The TECs are not required to check students took the courses - they rely only on the certificates issued by the national examination boards, such as City and Guilds, sent to them by the agencies. The boards carry out spot checks but these are random and the agencies are warned in advance they are going to be made.
Since it was formed in 1983 JHP has become one of the most successful agencies with 700 trainers and several thousand students on its books. In July last year the firm maintained that Gareth Marshall, 22, a travel consultant from Workington, Cumbria, successfully completed Business Administration Level 2 of the Pitman Examinations Institute, part of City and Guilds.
The JHP office filled in forms apparently showing Mr Marshall's attendance and the local trainer signed to say he was satisfied with the travel agent's work. By return Pitman issued the company with a certificate for Mr Marshall. JHP was entitled to pounds 500 from Cumbria TEC for this success, plus another pounds 10 a week while he was attending the 50 week course.
In fact Mr Marshall had not been on the course nor even enrolled with JHP. 'I never took business administration level two,' he said yesterday. 'I never took any course with JHP and I never did any training with them.' Mr Marshall's case is one of several involving JHP now under investigation by Cumbria TEC.
Bill Charteris, managing director of JHP, admitted last night that problems had arisen in Cumbria. But he insisted they were local and had not been repeated nationally. While claims had been made centrally from Coventry they had been made in good faith, relying on documents and records supplied from Cumbria.
The company had taken what Mr Charteris termed 'swift and deep action'. Staff in Whitehaven, Cumbria, had been changed and an undisclosed sum put on deposit to cover demands for repayment from the enterprise council.Reuse content