Jeff Cuthbert, Deputy Minister for Skills
A4e is a group companies which is a deliverer of government funded learning and support for non-employed persons throughout the United Kingdom and further afield.
A4e (Wales) ltd, one of its subsidiary companies, successfully tendered for the delivery of Work Based Learning (WBL) in a number of vocational sectors in Wales. It has a £6,101,831 WBL contract with the Welsh Government for 2011/2012; it has held contracts for WBL delivery in Wales since 2004. A4e is also in receipt of European funds through six European Social Fund projects. The total value of these contracts is £6.6m.
The company is subject to a police investigation in respect of suspected fraud by its staff in Berkshire.
A4e state that the fraud was identified through its whistle blowing policy and subsequent internal audit in 2010. Potential fraudulent activity was identified in its Slough, Berkshire office relating to a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) contract. It instigated a 100% check of claims made to identify the scale of the fraud. Following its internal investigation, A4e reported its findings to DWP in November 2010 and, following a DWP investigation, the case was referred to Thames Valley Police in May 2011.
The police investigation is on-going and four former employees have recently been arrested on suspicion of fraud.
The Work Based Learning Programme is subject to audit by the Welsh Government Provider Assurance and Governance Service (PAGS). The last review, which took place in November 2010, was a full systems review combined with data testing. The full systems review concluded that A4e had a sound system of internal control over the WBL funds. The data testing identified no errors.
However, in order to provide additional assurance, on 5 March 2012 PAGS commenced a routine audit. The purpose of the audit is to obtain assurance that A4e has applied the Welsh Government’s funds in a manner consistent with the purposes for which the funds have been given and in compliance with the conditions attached to the payment of those funds. DWP stated that it is currently content to continue with its contract arrangements with A4e.
The PAGS team is also liaising with Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) and the BIG Lottery so that a joint approach is adopted and the assurance obtained is shared with public funding partners, including the WEFO in respect of EU funding.