Construction giant could face £17m clawback after apprenticeship data error

Construction body increases pot by nearly 50 per cent for ESFA clawback

Construction body increases pot by nearly 50 per cent for ESFA clawback

A government-sponsored construction giant is facing a potential clawback of almost £17 million after an apprenticeships data blunder.

The Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) accounts for last year revealed it had set aside £10.9 million due to “non-compliance” with the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s funding rules for the academic years 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21.

But, its newly published financial statements for 2022-23 reveal this liability has ballooned by over 50 per cent to potentially £15.2 million between 2018 and 2020, while a further £1.6 million is being paid back for 2020-21.

The executive non-departmental public body, which has been chaired by former ESFA chief executive Peter Lauener since 2018, was found to have “issues with records management” and couldn’t evidence various funding claims. 

CITB’s latest accounts state, however, that it is “very confident” that the final clawback position will be “much lower” than the potential liability pot it has set aside.

The body expects the matter to conclude by the end of March 2024.

A CITB spokesperson said: “We are currently working with the ESFA to finalise audits of historic CITB provision. We included a conservative provision in the 22/23 accounts but expect the final figure to be much lower given the work we have in hand. 

“Over the last 18 months, we have been driving forward a comprehensive transformation of our training operations, including improvements to compliance as well as curriculum quality. That programme is delivering real results at pace.  

“Our most recent external assurance work gives us confidence that current arrangements are robust, and that these issues are historic in nature.”

The CITB, sponsored by the Department for Education, has historically been one of the largest providers of construction apprenticeships. However, apprentice numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years.

It was visited by Ofsted last year which resulted in it dropping from ‘outstanding’ to ‘requires improvement’ in May 2023.

The watchdog’s latest report revealed it has stepped away from its troubled subcontracted provision after finding ineffective oversight, with inspectors stating that leaders “focus too heavily on contract compliance and not on the quality of education”.

CITB confirmed at the time it was winding down its subcontracted delivery, which it was undertaking with 24 partners in areas such as carpentry and joinery, construction skills and bricklaying.

The organisation said the decision was linked to government policy in 2021, which demanded providers in FE significantly reduce their subcontracted provision after scandals and cases of poor oversight were brought to light.

Ofsted’s previous report on CITB from 2017 showed it had 9,000 apprentices on its books, but the report from May 2023 showed just 629.

Lauener, meanwhile, has been chair of CITB since 2018 and will serve his term until 2026. 

More recently, Lauener, who is also chair of the Student Loans Company, stepped down as chair of college giant NCG (formerly known as Newcastle College) three years earlier than planned for “personal reasons”.

NCG is also locked in a £9 million funding clawback dispute with the ESFA, due to alleged 16 to 19 and adult education budget funding claim errors between 2018/19 and 2020/21 – the first three years of Lauener’s term as chair.

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  1. The number and range of issues associated with errors in funding claims from ESFA might suggest there is a problem with the rules perhaps. Are they too complex to be applied reasonably?

      • Puzzled

        Here, here Robin.

        Seems the Agency’s PDSATs failed miserably or the selection process for audit has gone daft.

        Millions put to one side for errors….. how about taking time to translate rules into ops and processes like the rest/best of us. Beyond belief!!