The chief executive of the Student Loans Company sacked earlier this month was the subject of two separate investigations following allegations from two whistleblowers at the Department for Education-owned organisation.
Steve Lamey, who has alleged he was a victim of a “witch hunt” after he criticised inefficiency and mismanagement at the company in public, was the third SLC head to be forced out since 2010.
In a series of written parliamentary answers, Viscount Younger of Leckie, a Lords Conservative whip, said the allegations against Lamey were dealt with “in line with established SLC processes”, and the company did not intend to publish the findings of investigations “for reasons of confidentiality”.
He was answering a question from Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn about how many formal complaints the company had received about Lamey.
SLC initially said Lamey’s contract had been terminated “following investigations into allegations about aspects of his management and leadership”. A disciplinary report later seen by The Times said he had breached the “ethical standards expected of public office holders” after telling a conference of university administrators that the company was badly run.
Lamey told The Times that the allegations against him were made by disgruntled staff unhappy with his attempts to reform the company, and that DfE had gone out of its way to destroy his reputation.
SLC has long been blighted by reports of poor customer service and low morale among staff. The company lost an average of 16 working days per employee through sickness absence in 2016-17, compared with four at DfE and a national average of 4.3.
Mendelsohn also asked in a written parliamentary question what assessment the DfE had made of the performance, management and governance of SLC.
In response, Lord Younger insisted that “performance remains strong”. He said customer satisfaction rates were around 85% for applicants and 72% for borrowers in repayment, and governance was kept continually under review.
“SLC has demonstrated significant improvements in its operational performance over the last six years, and last year the company received complaints about its service from fewer than 0.1% of its customers,” he said.
“In addition, the performance of the chief executive officer is reviewed regularly by the chairman, and annually by the responsible minister.
“Following the recent termination of the CEO’s contract, the SLC board, in consultation with its shareholders, has acted swiftly to appoint Peter Lauener, currently chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, and Institute for Apprenticeships, as interim CEO from Monday 27 November.”
Lamey, appointed SLC chief in June 2016, previously worked for outsourcing companies, including briefly acting as interim director of Serco in 2013, and for HM Revenue and Customs between 2004 and 2012.
His dismissal from the £200,000 SLC post follows former chief executive Ed Lester leaving in 2013 amid a tax avoidance scandal and the resignation of then chief Ralph Seymour-Jackson in 2010 after SLC failed to make payments to thousands of students.