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Theft probe at training board

Private investigators called in after former employee claims corruption is rife at Bircham Newton

PRIVATE detectives have been called in by the Construction Industry Training Board to investigate claims of theft and corruption among staff at its headquarters in Bircham Newton, Norfolk.

The probe was launched following allegations by a former staff member that building materials were being stolen and training facilities misused.

Senior board staff took the claims so seriously that private detectives were bought in to carry out an undercover investigation.

The probe is thought to be still in progress and to have led to a shake- up in how the centre is run.

A CITB spokesman said: 'Allegations were made several months ago and we hired a private investigator to conduct an inquiry.

'The CITB maintains a full-time Internal Audit Department to ensure the strict internal control necessary for a non-departmental public body.

'This department has also undertaken a review of management processes in the area under investigation.

'Some amendments are to be implemented to remove any possible grounds for taking any such future allegations seriously.'

The former employee who made the claims worked at Bircham Newton for seven years and alleges that he witnessed a 'booming cottage industry' in theft and malpractice.

He told Construction News that:

building materials were stolen and sold or used on private projects;

workshops were used to make goods to be sold in local markets;

cash was wasted unnecessarily replacing computers and other equipment.

He said: 'Materials were always going missing and the workshops used for other things apart from training.

'Over Christmas they were churning out lights and decorations, instead of teaching the pupils.

'It was a common sight to see skips full of discarded computers and training videos.'

The board spokesman denied the allegations of waste at Bircham Newton.

He said: 'When you replace things like computers, the old ones are virtually worthless and have to be thrown away.'

But the claims are sure to anger contractors reeling from recent hikes in their CITB levy payments.

The former employee said: 'It would horrify people in the industry if they saw the level of waste down there.

'A lot of my friends work in the building game and they are always complaining about having to pay the training levy.

'I've worked in the industry for a long time but I've never seen anything like it before.'

Skips full of discarded computers and training videos.

The board spokesman denied the allegations of waste at Bircham Newton.

He said: 'When you replace things like computers, the old ones are virtually worthless and have to be thrown away.'

But the claims are sure to anger contractors reeling from recent hikes in their CITB levy payments.

The former employee said: 'It would horrify people in the industry if they saw the level of waste down there.

'A lot of my friends work in the building game and they are always complaining about having to pay the training levy. I've worked in the industry for a long time but I've never seen anything like it before.'