Bilston deal must go public

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
A confidential deal between the Learning and Skills Council and a group of auditors over the controversial Bilston community college is to be referred to MPs on the public accounts committee.

The LSC and Deloitte and Touche, external auditors of the former college, which was closed in 1999, agreed in July last year to settle their dispute out of court. However, they only made this public this month, after pressure from FE Focus.

The LSC, taking over from the Further Education Funding Council, launched a civil case for pound;25 million against the auditors, on the basis that ineligible courses had received funding. But the case has now been settled out of court.

A statement reads: "Both the LSC and Damp;T are pleased to confirm that the dispute between them arising out of D amp;T having acted as external auditors to the former BCC has been amicably settled on the basis of an agreed sum being paid to the LSC. Settlement was reached without any admission of liability by D amp; T."

But David Rendel, Liberal Democrat MP for Newbury and further and higher education spokesman, who was on the public accounts committee when it made its recommendations over Bilston, said: "I am going to kick up a fuss about this. I will personally be pressing for the details of this agreement to be made public.

"The committee said in its recommendations to the Government that there had been a substantial loss to the public purse over this business.

"The Government accepted our recommendations, said legal action would be instigated, and the committee would be kept informed of the outcome.

"The full details of this agreement should be published. There should not be clauses to prevent this."

A spokesman for the National Audit Office said: "We are aware that the LSC and Deloitte and Touche reached a financial settlement in July, though we do not know to what extent this has been made public.

"We do not have any plans for an investigation in this particular case."

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