The risk of fraudulent, misleading and confusing ads appearing on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website is higher than private equivalents, according to the National Audit Office.
Universal Jobmatch is no ordinary job board – jobseekers can be stripped of their benefits for not using it, writes Ed Howker.
But all this year, Channel 4 News has been looking into problems on the site, which is plagued with bogus, duplicated or inappropriate job ads.
Now, we have exclusively obtained a 10-page document by the National Audit Office (NAO) entitled “The Universal Jobmatch system and bogus and non-compliant postings”, which states that “there is no formal guidance on the depth or nature” of the checks performed on firms advertising on the Jobmatch service.
The terms and conditions which govern posting ads on Jobmatch ban fake, unclear, and duplicate ads, as well as those that require up-front investment, yet Channel 4 News continues to discover examples of these.
Channel 4 News also found that Monster, the firm running Jobmatch on behalf of the government, has itself posted duplicated ads – more than 1,100 in a single week in July. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) pays Monster £365,000 each month for providing the service.
In February, Channel 4 News exposed a Baptist deacon who was posting thousands of bogus jobs on Jobmatch before revealing that one in three of the positions on the site were suspect.
More than 250,000 jobs that breach the terms and conditions of the Jobmatch site have been removed since November 2012. However, most of these were taken down in the past four months – after Channel 4 News began investigating.
The NAO recognises that the site was designed to be open and accessible to give jobseekers the best chance of getting work but states that Jobmatch does not use all the potential improvements designed by Monster to “reduce the risk of fraud”.
Meanwhile, Monster and the DWP do not agree about how many employers have been banned from posting ads on the site.
The document was sent to Frank Field MP, who began investigating Jobmatch after 11 of his constituents became victims of a fraudster operating on the site.
In a separate letter to Mr Field, Sir Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, highlighted record keeping on Jobmatch: “We found a significant difference between the Department and Monster’s estimates of the number of bogus and genuine accounts withdrawn, The Department has not reconciled these datasets.”
In June, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told parliament: “Fraudulent jobs are rare on the site; it is estimated that fewer than 0.1 per cent of these vacancies have been fraudulent since go-live, and those have been removed.”
But Sir Amyas also expressed concern that “the extent of fraud may be greater than the recorded number of bogus accounts withdrawn if fraud remains undetected” because “the Department does not estimate undetected fraud”.
While there is no evidence to suggest that fraud is more widespread than the department suggests, the nature of the checks performed on advertisers remains unclear.
Mr Duncan Smith also said in June: “We regularly talk to all the employers. New employers are seen by advisers in the jobcentres in the local areas … In addition, employment advisers are meeting all those employers they are not aware of, or who have just come up on the system for the first time.”
Users’ security is key and the overwhelming majority of employers post genuine jobs. DWP
But the NAO document states: “Local employer teams, responsible for building relations with employers in Jobcentres, do not feed into this assessment [of whether job advertisers are legitimate].”
In a statement, the DWP told us: “The National Audit Office recognises that Universal Jobmatch is designed to be as open and accessible as possible so jobseekers have the best chance of finding work – and they are content with our approach.
“Since bringing in a new digital system that matches employers and jobseekers around the clock, more than half a million employers have registered with the system and there are almost five million job searches a day.
“Users’ security is key and the overwhelming majority of employers post genuine jobs, but with all job sites facing similar challenges from a small minority who don’t do the right thing, we work continuously with Monster to make the system as effective as possible.”