A training provider funded by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) has been left facing potential ruin after a payments dispute.
Sheffield based GNR Training has run courses in rail and engineering at centres in Peterborough and Cambridge, but CAPCA auditors Mazars say “funding errors” have been identified.
More than 30 rail engineering learners are reported to have been left in limbo as a consequence of the dispute between GNR and CAPCA.
Next week’s audit and governance committee will be told the amounts involved are exempt from publication on the basis that the information may relate to “any action taken or to be taken in connection with the prevention, investigation, or prosecution of crime.
“Results have been provided separately to members via exempt report.”
The accounting errors were discovered after CAPCA requested – for the 2021/2022 academic year – the testing of four of its 25 providers; this included two FE colleges and two independent training providers.
Audits were planned and performed “to obtain all relevant information and sufficient evidence to express an opinion over use of funds, which the provider had claimed and received from CAPCA over the course of that academic year”.
The audit committee will hear that as part of testing this year, the Combined Authority decided to sample check to see if learning aims are being delivered against the Ofqual recommended minimum guided learning hours (GLH).
“This was in response to sector intelligence, whereby concerns were raised that some providers are delivering learning aims with significantly lower guided learning hours than recommended yet are claiming the full amount of associated funding,” says the report.
“The Combined Authority has responded to this intelligence and used the sample testing to inform a new policy approach for 2022/23, whereby providers will be expected to deliver a minimum of 70% GLH to access the full amount of funding.
“This rate is in line with other Mayoral Combined Authorities and will be reviewed during the coming year to ensure the Combined Authority achieves best value for money.”
According to the education investigative magazine FE Week, GNR Training is facing closure after CAPCA suddenly terminated its adult education contract amid the disputed funding claims.
GNR told FE Week it strongly refuted the authority’s allegations and claims the provider has itself been underpaid by officials over the past three years.
“GNR is now attempting to rally its local MP to intervene in what it claims to be a ‘stitch-up’ situation in which it was set up to fail’”, FE Week reports.
According to FE Week, CAPCA has supported GNR from an opening contract in 2020/21 worth £82,000 to a contract worth half a million pounds the following year and followed that up with a five-year contract from last August worth millions.
Despite GNR opening a training centre in Brassey Close, Peterborough, they say the contract with CAPCA was terminated in April of this year.
Courses on offer from GNR included a 21-week level 3 diploma in engineering technology and it had also concluded 12-week level 2 diplomas in rail engineering.
GNR Training, whose website is currently down, has described itself as a “recognised provider of excellence.
“Our success has happened because of the people who learn with us.
“At GNR Training when we train our learners in rail and engineering, they also gain other valuable skills to support them in creating a better future for themselves.
“Our rail training, Level 2 and Level 3 Diploma in Engineering Technology has seen people move from unemployment into high level roles at Network Rail, Balfour Beaty and one of the learners has now joined GNR as a tutor himself.
“GNR actively support veterans through our re-settlement support onto the Level 3 Diploma.”
FE Week says it has seen the confidential report going to the audit and governance committee, and says it contains allegations of an overpayment by CAPCA – who were now asking for it back.
GNR has denied any wrongdoing and has asked for help from their MP.
Rachael Bull from GNR told FE Week: “The need for rail people is phenomenal, it is off the chart.
“Now there is a training company that is wiped off the face of the planet – that was training good engineers that had jobs to go to – the industry as a whole suffers.”
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