A man has been jailed for 15 months for defrauding New College Swindon out of almost £43,000 of Skills Funding Agency (SFA) cash — after he faked certificates that wrongly showed students had completed assessments.
Leonard Hay, of Cochran Close, Churchdown, was the manager of his own one-man company Update, Training and Vocational Services (UTVS), based in Churchdown, which operated as a subcontractor for New College Swindon.
He was sentenced to 15 months behind bars at Gloucester Crown Court, after pleading guilty to committing fraud between May 2013 and June 2014, with police calling his behaviour “deplorable”.
The Crown Prosecution Service subsequently told FE Week on Tuesday (May 10) that Hay had sent fake certificates falsely claiming that more than 40 level two and level three laboratory technician apprentices had “completed” their studies — and pocketed £42,863 in resulting payment.
A CPS spokesperson said: “Hay stated that a number [of students] had succeeded, and sent certificates to the college confirming that.
“The college then paid Leonard Hay, but the certificates were fake, and the named persons did not complete their assessments.”
A spokesperson for the college told FE Week that it had taken immediate action in 2014 as soon as it realised what Hay had been doing.
She said: “We were saddened by this incident and disappointed for the affected students.
“The college picked up the fraud through its robust control processes when staff spotted anomalies in the paperwork and certificates that were submitted.
“We took immediate action in informing the police and the SFA and had Gateway Assure in to audit our processes in dealing with subcontractors.”
She added the college had tried its best to help learners affected.
“Some of them worked in NHS organisations and some in private organisations.
“Where students have remained in the NHS sector, New College has been working very hard with them and their employers nationally to ensure that they can complete their awards and gain certification.
“This is an ongoing process as we’ve had to start assessment from scratch with them.
“Of the 44 [students affected], 22 had left their organisations, or changed roles, or were not interested in completing, and we are still working with the other 22.”
Investigating officer DC Simon Shaw was scathing in his criticism of Hay.
He told FE Week: “This case featured the theft of a considerable amount of money from the taxpayer.
“Equally deplorable, Mr Hay badly let down many students, who believed he was guiding them to a professional qualification.
“Hundreds of hours of their hard work was wasted as Hay kept the funding money for himself, leaving his students high and dry.”
A Skills Funding Agency spokesperson said: “In 2014, New College Swindon made the SFA aware that they were investigating fraudulent activity at Update Educational Services Ltd, one of their subcontractors.
“The college kept the SFA regularly informed of outcomes and the SFA reviewed the college’s audit report to provide us with assurance that public funds were protected and learner needs were being met.”