Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A4e offices raided by Fraud Squad. MP's call for government contracts with A4e to be suspended!

Last Friday, detectives visited the offices of 'Action for Employment'(A4e), in Slough, Berkshire, and demanded that staff hand over documents and computer files.

This is not the first time that A4e has been investigated for alleged fraud.
In 2008, after an investigation by officials from the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), it was discovered that documents at the firms Hull office, had been falsified and signatures forged, by two employees at the office in order to trigger commission payments from the government.

A4e are one of 18 mainly private organizations that have been contracted by the government to deliver its controversial 'Work Programme'. Despite being awarded contracts by the government, there have been complaints that the company has had an 'abysmal' record in delivering 'welfare-to-work schemes.

According to reports in the Daily Mail, the police are investigating allegations that A4e claimed 'generous fees' from the taxpayer for finding jobs for clients which in some cases, lasted no more than 24 hours and ordered people attending their courses, to sign blank timesheets. A dossier of allegations also says:

"Others complained of being forced to waste hours doing nothing in a 'chaotic, unorganised ' course instead of being allowed to look for gainful employment."

A construction worker, the newspaper says, complained that he'd spent 13 weeks on a course run by A4e in order to renew his forklift operator's license but had 'received no training at all'.

To people acquainted with government welfare-to-work schemes, this will all sound very familiar. A lack of due diligence and proper scrutiny, means the system is wide open to abuse by providers.

Ministers are now asking for 'urgent reassurances' that there has been no systematic fraud of taxpayers money. Margaret Hodge, the Labour chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, is also calling for government contracts with A4e to be suspended while allegations of fraud are being investigated.

Founder and majority shareholder of A4e, the multi-millionaire, Emma Harrison, has come under a great deal of criticism recently for awarding herself an £8.6 million dividend from the company which derived all of its UK income, from government contracts. In December 2010, she was appointed as the government's 'Families Tsar' by David Cameron who hailed her "as an inspiration in his campaign to help the unemployed."

Mrs Harrison (48), has done extremely well out of the British taxpayer by getting payments off the State. Delivering welfare-to-work contracts for successive governments, has given her an estimated fortune of £70 million. Married to husband Jim, she lives in the 100 acre Thornbridge Hall in Derbyshire which she bought in 2002, for £5m. The house which is shared with other families - which Harrison describes as a 'posh commune' - contains a bar, nightclub, pool and spa and according to reports, "wild boar roam the woodland."

The government have also come under a great deal of criticism lately concerning its 'Work Programme'. Some have suggested that with 2.67 million officially out of work and little economic growth, the unemployed are being forced into looking for jobs that aren't there. Even the National Audit Office (NAO), says that estimates of how many people will get jobs under the Programme are 'over optimistic'. Though David Cameron says that the government's 'Work Programme' is the biggest welfare-to- work scheme since the 1930s, others such as the Guardian columnist Zoe Williams, have concluded:

"All it amounts to is a set of large payments from the government to 18 companies that are contracted to harry people into jobs that don`t exist" and she adds:

"The BBC compliments the latest figures with a 'How to get a job in retail' guide - I can give you the short answer: accept one third of the minimum wage and let them pretend you`re an apprentice."

This explains in part, why many Britsh employers now prefer to employ foreign workers. They are prepared to work hard and accept lower wages than British applicants.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I employers are paying less than the national minimum wage even if the employee agrees it is against the law.