Providers ‘at fault’ for new funding system fiasco says Skills Minister Matthew Hancock

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock has laid the blame for the Skills Funding Agency’s new payment software fiasco on providers’ “own internal management information systems”.

He claimed providers were at fault as they struggled to work out what they are owed for delivery of education and training — calculated with the agency’s new and troubled funding information system (Fis).

It comes after the agency itself had acknowledged and held its hands up to problems with the new system.

But, in a written parliamentary answer over the issue [also available to view on the WhatDoTheyKnow website], Mr Hancock wrote: “There have been some issues for colleges and other providers in calculating funding due to them where their own internal management information systems have not been able to report accurately their management position.”

It comes as FE data staff continue to pull their hair out over ongoing problems with agency funding software.

Management information system (MIS) officers have repeatedly told FE Week of the strain and financial burden of trying to prepare and submit monthly funding data returns through Fis.

Prime and sub-contractors with the agency, and also Education Funding Agency (EFA), use Fis in the hope of generating the values of provision delivered.

But a message on the agency website conceded it had been plagued with problems. It read: “We apologise for any difficulties caused by the delayed delivery of the data collection system and technical issues.

“We are committed to ensuring you can make accurate data returns, recognising that key funding and allocations calculations are based on them.”

The problems prompted a written question to the minister from Tory MP Caroline Dinenage.

She asked: “What representations has the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills [BIS] received from colleges and other providers on (a)funding data not being reconciled by the Skills Funding Agency’s systems and (b) resulting delays in payment to private providers?”

Mr Hancock replied blaming providers, adding: “The agency is moving to a new data collection system that underpins a more streamlined and less complex funding system.

“The system will remove the need for thousands of different funding values for each course and qualification, replace old and complex funding formulas with a single cash figure and replace the different funding systems with a single one.”

He continued: “BIS and the agency have been working with representatives from the sector to develop the new system.

“The agency has continued to pay all providers and colleges on time. The agency is not aware of any late payments being made by the agency to private training providers.”

Is the minister right to say providers are at fault? Please leave your comments below.