Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (7th March 2012) called for a “full inquiry as to whether criminal behaviour had happened” after welfare-to-work company A4e was forced to withdraw from part of a £900,000 project to place vulnerable people into work after an employee forged signatures on official forms.
A4e was helping to place 630 youngsters with disabilities and mental health difficulties into jobs in Teesside in a project funded with European Union money.
Former colleagues said the employee invented signatures to increase the number of people who appeared to have been placed in jobs or on courses.
The inquiry into forged signatures dates back to 2009 when A4e was among subcontractors working to Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council in the Elite Project, funded with European Social Fund cash, to help hundreds of young people who might otherwise slip through the net.
They included teenage parents, those with learning difficulties and disabled people. But a council inquiry found that learners’ signatures had been forged.
Tom said “I gather A4E say that there was no criminal activity involved, and that the person responsible had resigned. I beg to differ. To me it looks as if fraud was committed based on an attempt to make it look as if the individual had got more vulnerable people involved than was the case – benefiting both the employer and, if bonuses were to be paid, the employee concerned.
There needs to be a full investigation into this case, and if A4e are not prepared to undertake this, then it should be done by both Redcar and Cleveland Council and European Commission auditors – and if needed to be referred to the Police Fraud Squad.
A4e seem to have form in this area. The company, which has £180m worth of public contracts, is at the centre of a fraud investigation in Slough, where four people have been arrested. A subcontractor of A4e is also subject to an official inquiry. An inquiry into its Hull office resulted in one former employee being fined for falsifying job outcomes.
This is public money here, and this must be looked into to restore confidence into all regeneration projects carried out locally.”