In a letter sent to education and training providers, Ms Milner says that the issues underpinning the investigations "range in seriousness from complacency and mismanagement, through to matters of deliberate and systematic fraud".
The letter states: “We will be more forensic in our examination of the data and information available to us to hold individuals and organisations to account. We will recover public money where appropriate.
“In response to the evidence gathered so far, we have tightened our requirements and made it clear that we will take action with lead providers who do not exercise control over subcontracted provision.”
Ms Milner stresses that the ESFA will take action where there is evidence any provider is not playing by its strict subcontracting rules.
She also gave more detail on the ESFA's review into improving sub-contracting arrangements, setting out that it would look into:
- The balance of oversight and accountability arrangements, and with which bodies they should rest.
- Reasonable expectations of the external audit process.
- Placing limits on the permitted geographical distance between a directly funded institution and the location where subcontracted provision is delivered.
- Acting to prevent non-compliance, failure and fraud.
- Potentially precluding the use of some subcontractors.
- Reviewing the aggregate funding value of subcontracted provision held by subcontractors.
- The use, in respect of subcontracting, of the Register of Training Organisations (RoTO) and the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP).
A sub-contractor can deliver education and training for a lead provider who receives ESFA funds. Lead providers have a legal duty to make sure that these funds are spent in accordance with the ESFA's subcontracting rules.
When they accept the funds, providers accept terms and conditions of the funding agreement, and confirm that they have a process in place to ensure that subcontracted provision is delivered properly, securely and meets ESFA rules.