Archive for March 22nd, 2012
Actor Robert De Niro has apologised for a quip he made at a Democratic fundraiser that the US might not be ready for “a white first lady”.
The Raging Bull star was introducing the First Lady, Michelle Obama, at an event in New York.
“My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone – especially the first lady,” he said.
Republican candidate Newt Gingrich called the remarks “inexcusable”.
During his introduction at Monday’s fundraiser, De Niro, 68, alluded to Mr Gingrich’s wife, Callista.
“Callista Gingrich, Karen Santorum, Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady? Too soon, right?” he told the audience.
Welfare-to-work firm A4e knew of widespread potential fraud and systematic failures by management to control it, a leaked document suggests.
BBC Newsnight has obtained the results of a confidential 2009 internal audit of work by A4e’s top recruiters.
The auditors found examples of staff claiming for putting people into jobs which did not exist, jobs which did not qualify for payment and fabricating paperwork to back up claims.
A4e has so far declined to comment.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which was passed a copy of the leaked document, said: “A 2009 A4e internal audit and risk document, relating to programmes contracted by the previous government, has today been passed to the department.
“The Work and Pensions Select Committee was made aware of this audit at the time and the department later received assurances from A4e that it had not uncovered any major issues.
“When an allegation of attempted fraud was recently made in relation to a current Mandatory Work Activity contract with A4e we immediately announced a formal investigation of that allegation. Alongside that, we announced we would commence a separate and independent audit of our current contractual relationship with the company.
“That process is ongoing, and while the internal A4e document relates to programmes delivered by the previous government, our investigation into current contracts will ensure the issues this report raises have been fully addressed.”
Earlier this month the DWP launched an investigation into A4e’s work, saying that the department had been made aware of an allegation of attempted fraud in relation to a contract with the firm.
The company has denied wrongdoing, saying at the time that it took any allegations of fraudulent or illegal activity extremely seriously.
Police were already investigating claims of irregularities at the company, which was paid £200m a year by the government for training the unemployed and getting them into long-term jobs.
Earlier on Tuesday a fifth person was arrested in connection with the police investigation into allegations of fraud at A4e’s Slough offices dating back to 2010.
Four ex-members of A4e staff were arrested in January.
In February, entrepreneur Emma Harrison stepped down as the head of A4e and quit her role as the government’s “family champion” amid the police investigation.
According to the leaked confidential document obtained by Newsnight, in July 2009 A4e’s own audit and risk department examined the work of its top 20 recruiters, looking at 20% of their work, which equated to examining the files of 224 clients.
The jobs A4e was arranging were supposed to last at least 13 weeks and employers needed to sign a form confirming the job was real and that the employee would be working a minimum of 16 hours a week.