The government’s insolvency watchdog will take “no further action” against the ex-directors of former apprenticeship giant Aspire Achieve Advance (3aaa) following an inquiry.
The Insolvency Service began investigating the company’s directors’ conduct following its collapse in 2018, in line with usual procedure when a firm enters compulsory liquidation.
A spokesperson for the government agency said this week the official receiver for the case has now concluded their enquiries and decided not to impose any sanctions.
3aaa was one of the largest apprenticeship providers in the country. Its downfall came after the government terminated its multi-million-pound skills-funding contracts following a five-month investigation into alleged inflated achievement rates and funding overclaims. The case was then passed to the police through Action Fraud.
This was the DfE’s second investigation into the provider in two years.
Derbyshire Constabulary took on the case but decided in January 2020 not to pursue any further action.
A spokesperson for the ESFA said at the time it would “not hesitate to take swift and decisive action against those who attempt to break, or manipulate, the rules, regardless of whether the relevant authorities take forward criminal proceedings”.
The provider went bust following the ESFA’s investigation and the High Court placed 3aaa into compulsory liquidation in late October 2018. Anthony Hannon was then made the official receiver handling the insolvency.
The Insolvency Service has three years from the date of the company winding-up order to launch enforcement action “if it was to determine doing so was in the public interest in the light of any investigation findings”.
Sanctions imposed by the official receiver, if they uncover unfit director conduct, include director disqualification of between two and 15 years.
3aaa had 4,200 learners and 500 staff on its books when it went bust.
The firm was holding £16.5 million in ESFA contracts and received more than £31 million in government funding the year before its collapse.
3aaa was co-founded by former Derby County Football Club owner Peter Marples and Di McEvoy-Robinson in 2008. They both stepped down in September 2018 in the midst of the ESFA’s investigation.
Neither Marples nor McEvoy-Robinson had responded to requests for comment at the time of our going to press.