A “rogue” apprenticeship provider boss has received a six-year director’s ban for failing to explain £3.5 million worth of spending, most of which was public funding.
Shakar Habib, 28, from Newham, London, was the sole director of Vista Training Solutions Limited, which since 2011 worked as a subcontractor to deliver apprenticeship training before landing its own direct contract in 2018.
The provider was found making ‘reasonable progress’ by Ofsted in an early monitoring visit later that year when Vista was training 129 apprentices, mainly in ICT.
But the firm went bust in 2020 following an Education and Skills Funding Agency investigation into its use of taxpayer funding for apprenticeships.
The ESFA last year made a claim of £2.5 million against Vista during the liquidation, and the government’s Insolvency Service has now said Habib could not account for nearly £3.5 million from the company’s accounts.
Investigators discovered that Habib had failed to keep adequate company accounts – a legal obligation for company directors – and that records from April 2019 onwards were missing.
They were therefore unable to verify whether £3.5 million of payments from the company’s bank accounts during its final year of trading were legitimate company expenses.
The company’s liquidator – FRP Advisory Trading Limited – was also unable to account for £525,000 in assets due to lack of financial records.
A statement from the Insolvency Service said the ESFA continues to work with the Insolvency Practitioner to support their investigations for potential recovery of money – but the latest statement of receipts and payments from the liquidator admits it is “unlikely” that there will be sufficient funds available to pay unsecured creditors.
Habib has now been banned from being a director of a company until November 20, 2029. It prevents him from becoming involved in the promotion, formation or management of a company, without the permission of the court.
Marc Symons, deputy head of investigations at the Insolvency Service, said: “Shakar Habib disregarded his legal duty to keep accounting records. But thanks to the joint working between ESFA and the Insolvency Service, he has been removed from the corporate arena for a substantial period.
“His ban should be a stark warning to other rogue directors that we will act to protect the public from those who abuse taxpayers’ money.”
Andrew Thomas, director of finance and provider market oversight in the ESFA, said: “This successful outcome demonstrates that ESFA will take robust action and work with regulatory partners across government to hold individuals and organisations to account.”