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Fishiest outsourcing firms



Founded in 1991, A4e has an annual turnover of more than £200m, funded entirely from the public purse. It is the largest provider of the government's welfare-to-work programme. 

A4e used to describe itself as a "a social purpose company with one sole aim: to improve people's lives around the world" – until the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that this gave the false impression it was not-for-profit.  

Founder Emma Harrison certainly improved her own life, paying herself £8.6m in dividends in 2011 and becoming David Cameron's families champion. But a series of fraud allegations against the company forced her to step down as both A4e chairman and government tsar in February 2012. 

The allegations prompted the Department for Work and Pensions to cancel one A4e contract, but the company continues to win government work. Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: "I find it astounding that, at a time when one government department is investigating a company for systemic failures, another department is awarding the same company new contracts. You couldn't make it up."

A4e is nominated for:
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