College confirms return of funds following audit
Dudley College of Technology today confirmed it has provided in its accounts to return funds to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) following a review of the late withdrawal of apprentices and work placed learners in 2015/16 and 2016/17. The College was notified of concerns of late withdrawals by EFSA in December 2018 and immediately began an investigation appointing RSM to undertake an advisory audit conducted in agreement with the Agency. The advisory audit was completed in January and RSM reported their findings to the College’s Audit Committee and ESFA in March 2019.
RSM found that the College had: ‘historically had a poor system for tracking and monitoring the continued activity of apprentices and adult education budget (AEB) learners where delivery is offsite’. As a result, ‘funding has been over claimed for both AEB learners and apprentices as withdrawals have not been actioned in a timely manner to ensure funding was returned in the correct year. However, the College is performing significantly above the national rate in all areas and even when recalculated to reflect the missing withdrawals the College will still be above national rates’.
Commenting on the matter Lowell Williams, Chief Executive Officer, Dudley College of Technology said :
“There’s no question that the College is at fault in this matter. The management of large work based learning programmes, delivered off site on a national basis, is complex, but it is our responsibility to get it right and we didn’t. I am grateful that the ESFA brought this to our attention. It would be helpful for the sector in the future if there was a more effective system to analyse and report on late withdrawals and an automatic reconciliation of funds between ILR years.
We have made provision to return £504k to the Agency which represents less than 1% of our total funding claim in these years and does not have any material impact on the College’s financial health. The College’s published accounts for 2017/18 openly acknowledge the error and make provision for the repayments to the Agency. They also show that despite this blunder the College delivered an EBITDA of £3.5m or 9% of income in 2017/18, after the adjustment for the return of funds to the Agency.
I am extremely disappointed that our data has been redacted from the new QAR achievement rates published Thursday 28 March 2019. However, I fully understand the Agency’s position that our data was not wholly accurate when the ILR closed in October 2018, so could not be included.
Our achievement rates have now been fully audited on at least two occasions, and all rates as published on the college’s website via our data dashboard are accurate. For Apprenticeships, the area in question, our achievement rates remain exceptionally high at 80.7% in 2016/17 and 77.2% in 2017/18.
In a wider sense I recognise the reputational damage caused by these errors to the College, our stakeholders and the wider sector. I apologise for these mistakes”.