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“Who’s accountable for a decade of errors?” Welsh Conservatives ask as students incorrectly paid over £3m

The Education Secretary for Wales has told Assembly Members that the Welsh Government have had to write off £3.25m following ten year of incorrect grant payments.

Grants for Dependents (GFDs), which are given to help students to look after those that rely on them during their studies, had been sent to students on distance learning by mistake as they were not physically attending campus.

The information came to AMs in a written statement earlier today in which Kirsty Williams said the result emerged due to “genuine misinterpretation of the regulations”.

Though the problems that led to these mistakes has now been rectified, the mistakes had been occurring for the last ten of the 12 years that the GFD grant had been in operation.

The Welsh Conservatives tabled a topical question to address their concerns, but it was rejected by the Presiding Officer.

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Education Secretary Suzy Davies AM said that though the same error shouldn’t occur again, there remain several unanswered questions.

She said:

“I note that the rules have now changed and am pleased that the students who mistakenly received this money should not be made to repay what they accepted in good faith.  That does not mean that Welsh Government should just write off a substantial sum.

“This cannot be swept under the carpet with an apologetic mumble.  Someone must be held accountable.  If these rules were capable of “misinterpretation”, why?  The policy was clear.  If the universities have made the mistake, why are they not being asked to pay? Why it was able to go on for so long when both the universities and Welsh Government have their own rigorous auditing rules?

“Has this matter been brought to the attention of the Wales Audit Office? This error has cost the taxpayers a sum which could have employed dozens of teachers instead?

“I will be taking up this line of enquiry with the Welsh Government until the public gets the answers it deserves. Wales has had enough of this government losing its money through negligence or mismanagement.”