'Champagne Culture' Of A4e Revealed By Former Managers

Several former managers of A4e, the welfare-to-work company at the centre of fraud investigations, have told the Guardian newspaper the firm ‘has a culture of lavish trips abroad and big-spending hospitality.’

The company holds up to £180m worth of public contracts and all of its UK income comes from government contracts.

Describing the company has having a “champagne culture” one former manager said: "If the marketing director wanted to take a team of 10 marketing people for a night out you wouldn't get change out of £2,000."

Another former member of staff has told how management conferences, which up to 100 staff would attend, would be held in Monaco and La Manga in Spain. It has also been alleged that in spring 2011 about 25 managers where taken to Paris, at the company’s expense, to celebrate being awarded the Work Programme contracts by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Ex-managers also revealed that for a trip to New York to meet charities and organisations working with the city’s unemployed, Emma Harrison, who recently stepped down as head of A4e, travelled business class alongside a member of her family. The trip was later billed to the company at a cost of more than £20,000, which included an expenses claim for an $800 (£504) restaurant bill.

Responding to the new allegations A4e said they were "obviously a highly subjective observation [or] understanding". They did however confirm that management conferences were held in Monaco in 2006 and La Manga in 2004.

"It is hardly unusual for businesses to hold off-site conferences," A4e said, "but please be aware that previous and subsequent conferences have been held in locations including Rotherham and Manchester."

While unemployed Russell Kynoch, a former Jobcentre Plus employee, was given a four-week work experience placement by A4e within the company’s own finance department in between January 23 and February 17 this year. During this he says he processed ‘pre-authorised expenses claims from across the company’ and came across numerous irregularities such as, "missing receipts for taxi, rail, bus, train, tram, parking and wrong calculations of payments".

He claims he was told to not scrutinise expenses claims too closely and only examine a few receipts saying, "I would get a claim with 15 or 20 receipts. I was told to just pick a couple out … [They said] 'Don't spend time going through every receipt with the form.'”

In response A4e told the Guardian:

"As a responsible business we would take any allegations of incorrect expenses claims very seriously and investigate thoroughly, including taking relevant disciplinary action if appropriate."


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