Auditors questioned wide array of A4e work placements

Job-seekers with convictions were sent to employers that required clean records

By David Hencke | 23 May 2012

“The client should not have been put forward for this job, and therefore it is the auditor’s opinion that the job outcome should not have been claimed”
– A4e internal audit report

‘Welfare-to-work’ company A4e sent job-seekers with unspent criminal convictions to an employer that had insisted on staff with clean records.

A4e auditors uncovered this at the same time as they found out that more than one quarter of the company’s placements was potentially fraudulent, irregular or unverifiable, as revealed by Exaro yesterday.

The jobs agency, A4e, even placed one job-seeker at a Liverpool lap-dance club.

A4e, the troubled company at the centre of a police fraud investigation, also sent people with criminal records to the Nottingham branch of Right 4 Staff, an employment agency. A4e sent them under its huge government contract to place unemployed people in work.

The employer concerned told auditors that it was forced to sack one of A4e’s “clients” because of his criminal past. Gi Group, the multinational employment agency, bought Right 4 Staff last year.

The auditors’ report also says that the job agency’s recruiters sent to Right 4 Staff people who refused to work with food, and the employer eventually refused to take anyone else from A4e.

The report, published in full today by Exaro, says: “During the visit to Right 4 Staff, the auditor spoke to Mark Mullen, who stated that he was not happy with the service being provided by A4e.

“He provided a copy of an e-mail showing that he was receiving clients who were not suited to the position being offered. This was due to lack of information being provided to clients by the recruiters at [A4e’s] Nottingham office, with clients being sent who did not want to work with food, or clients with unspent criminal convictions.

“This was the case for [name redacted by Exaro] who was employed for two days, but was dismissed when it became apparent that he had unspent convictions. As the recruiter was fully aware of the requirements of this role, the client should not have been put forward for this job, and therefore it is the auditor’s opinion that the job outcome should not have been claimed.”

The audit report cites one example where an employer in Norwich was unhappy that an A4e recruiter appears to have fabricated someone’s record to enable A4e to claim payment from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for the placement.

Anne Timbers, director of Integrated Cleaning Services, revealed to auditors that the employer’s form, known as F054, showed the employee working less than 16 hours, which would not qualify A4e for payment. But the one held by A4e showed the employee working longer.

The audit report says: “The employer has expressed both concern and anger that her organisation’s name has been used in this way, and has requested that she is kept informed of any progress in the matter.”

Timbers later told Exaro: “I knew nothing about this until the auditor visited my company. The figures [A4e] had were rubbish and not true. They have never contacted me since; it has all gone quiet. We have not employed anybody from A4e since this.”

Auditors also found that A4e recruiters sent a six-month pregnant woman to work in a Nottinghamshire residential care-home where she was required to carry out heavy lifting.

The audit report says: “During the visit to Woodhouse Residential Home, the contact, Margaret Naysmith, confirmed that the client, [name redacted by Exaro], only worked at the organisation for one day. This was due to the client being 24-weeks pregnant at the time that she started work with the organisation.

“The contact confirmed that the role involved heavy lifting, and this was known to A4e at the time of the outcome being claimed.

“The F054 was not signed until some time after the client had left the organisation, and the auditor feels that, ethically, the client should not have been placed into a role in this environment bearing in mind her condition.

“The findings also question the ethics of obtaining a signature on the F054 weeks after the client has left, knowing that the role only lasted one day.”

One employer is reported as saying that he was asked by an A4e recruiter to sign blank documents.

An A4e spokeswoman told Exaro: “While this investigation uncovered a number of areas where procedures may have been lacking, the final audit and further investigation determined that five claims were irregular and related to one former employee.

“This was reported to the DWP Risk Assurance Division, which confirmed that the action taken by A4e fully met its own audit requirements, and that it considered the matter satisfactorily resolved. A4e repaid the value of these five claims in full, which totalled less than £5,000.

“A4e raised concerns about the risks with these historic, paper-based systems with the DWP and relevant House of Commons select committees on a number of occasions.”

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