The Promote-ed team were never in favour of the provider relief scheme for a variety of reasons – firstly, we were never sure that it could be delivered legally by the ESFA as providers wanted it to – we were proven correct on that one and that also the processes of providing any form of relief would not come without its obligations and disclosures.
It’s pretty clear that the ESFA got more out of the process than the providers! – resulting in them announcing an almost immediate requirement for large providers and those applying for provider relief to submit detailed financial forecasts.
Obviously, the ESFA are examining the impact on providers that COVID-19 has had with a view of provider much needed support where this is deemed necessary – believe that one and you also believe that the Chancellor has a money tree in the Garden of No11.
The review of these forecasts will tell the ESFA more than they probably want to know and the picture won’t be pretty one. Running the financial health assessments against most of the financial statements of the large providers tells you that most score less than 100, but none of them have been issued with a notice of financial health!
I was reading a judgement in relation to financial fair play last week in relation to a football club dear to my heart. It told about how the Director of Finance of the EFL personally signed off compliance with the FFP rules, looking at ways in which clubs could manipulate the rules to gain advantage. I couldn’t help but contrast that with this sector – certainly no-one looking closely at the accounts, the underlying structures and control and how the true financial position is hidden away from those that need to look at it.
I don’t blame the providers in the slightest, it’s another example of an ESFA team completely out of their depth – this time, a team that cannot read a set of accounts or importantly read behind a set of accounts.
Promote-ed has for a long time championed the need for closer scrutiny of the finances of larger providers – it is in the document we sent to Ministers in relation to a potential new register of approved providers.
As they say, be careful what you wish for – those championing a provider relief scheme – mainly the large providers – might just be facing some difficult questions from the ESFA and remember the ESFA ARE judge and juror when it comes to contract compliance.
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