Education secretary Gavin Williamson authorized a brand new £190m contract with the corporate blamed for “unacceptable delays” within the college meals voucher scheme, it has emerged.
French firm Edenred was criticised final yr after its web site failed to deal with demand in the course of the first lockdown, leaving hundreds of oldsters and academics unable to entry the system. The ASCL educating union described the scheme’s launch firstly of the pandemic as a “shambles”.
A National Audit Office investigation recognized “a range of problems” with Edenred’s administration of the £15 voucher scheme, which resulted in its helpline being bombarded with 3,940 calls from apprehensive dad and mom and academics in a single day in April.
The House of Commons Public Affairs Committee additionally questioned whether or not the contract was worth for cash, concluding that the Department for Education “missed potential opportunities to reduce the cost or share in the profits.”
While the Department for Education acknowledged that Edenred initially had “insufficient capacity to meet demand”, it claimed that “efficiency steadily improved because the scheme progressed” and stated that it had improved the terms of the contract “to make sure the higher worth for cash for taxpayers.”
However at that time it did not reveal the value of the three-month contract, which was eventually published on the government website earlier this week. It states that the value is up to £190m and that it ends on 8 April.
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey told the Guardian the government was “addicted to wasting taxpayers’ money on bad contracts with private firms, while refusing to pay our NHS and care staff properly”.
He also tweeted: “The Tories’ use of poorly performing expensive private contractors in the pandemic is a scandal, in sharp contrast to the heroic performance of the NHS and so many councils.”
Edenred mentioned in an announcement to The Independent that the scheme “has been delivered at no cost to the taxpayer over and above the money paid for each free school meal.”
The firm added: “The insinuation that the Free School Meals contract has wasted taxpayer’s money is completely false.
“Over 95 per cent of oldsters have mentioned they’re glad with the scheme – a determine which has been constant for the reason that early launch points have been resolved final Spring. In addition, each pound spent by the DfE has been transformed into the equal worth of vouchers for households.”
Edenred said that by 3 March more than £90m worth of voucher codes had already been redeemed into supermarket gift cards for families.
The DfE mentioned it could not be making any additional remark.