This closeness was one of the issues investigated by solicitors McKeag and Co after complaints that rival staffing agencies were kept out in the cold. Mr Ward has always denied any financial or commercial link between himself and ELS, the only agency endorsed by the AOC.
The TES has seen invoices showing that the then Colleges' Employers' Forum, the predecessor to the Association of Colleges, paid the hotel bill for Tim Parkes and Geoff Lennox, both of ELS, in July 1996. Mr Parkes and Mr Lennox were in London for a meeting with Mr Ward.
In 1995, Mr Ward had 41 meetings with representatives from the then emerging ELS. His meetings were across the country, including Derby, Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff, Newcastle, Birmingham, Oxford, Nottingham, and Bristol.
In March alone he attended 10 seminars for Provision, a precursor of ELS. Many of the meetings were with Geoff Lennox, the chief executive of ELS and former chief executive of Derby education authority, and they ranged from breakfast to lunch and dinner.
The itinerary for the autumn of 1995 shows how he was spending some of his time. On September 7, he dined with Geoff Lennox. After a short holiday, on September 19 he attended a meeting at the ELS Nottingham office.
The next day, Mr Ward and his wife dined with John Kirkland, the financial backer of ELS, and his wife, at the Savoy. On September 21, he had an evening meeting with Mr Lennox at the ELS office. On September 28, he dined with Mr Lennox at the Cafe des Amis. In the middle of October, Mr Ward and his wife attended a car rallying weekend as guests of Mr Lennox.
This week The TES asked the Association of Colleges' board to clarify why the CEF paid the hotel bills. The paper also asked who paid Mr Ward's accommodation and travel expenses for the numerous ELS meetings. At the time of going to press no reply had been received.