Assistant director Eddie Ruthven and two others held to account over income from health and safety tests

Industry training body CITB-ConstructionSkills has suspended three members of staff and is carrying out an internal investigation over what it says is a serious financial reporting issue in its statutory accounts.

CITB assistant director Eddie Ruthven and two other members of staff were suspended on 18 January after CITB management became concerned about the financial reporting of the body’s health and safety testing scheme. Building does not know the names of the two other members of staff suspended. Eddie Ruthven could not be contacted as Building went to press.

A CITB spokesperson said the investigation was over a “serious reporting issue” that affected the CITB’s profit and loss statutory accounts.

She added that it focused on how the income from the health and safety test, to which CITB owns the intellectual property rights, is reported in its accounts. She said the internal investigation was being carried out by the CITB’s financial director and that there should be a conclusion by 7 February.

The CITB established a scheme in 2000 to allow companies to block-book and pre-pay for the tests, which cost £35 each.

It is understood however that since the scheme was introduced, more than 35,000 tests that have been pre-paid by companies have not been used. The issue central to the investigation is whether the income from the tests should be carried over into the new financial year as a liability on the CITB books.

There is no suggestion in any of this of personal gain

CITB source

Income from these tests would amount to more than £1m. The CITB carries out more than 250,000 tests every year through an external company it contracts to administer the test. The CITB spokesperson added: “We have a month-and-a-half of tests outstanding.”

Building understands that CITB staff have rallied round Ruthven since he was suspended and that morale at CITB’s offices is low. A CITB source said: “Eddie is one of life’s good guys; it’s unbelievable what’s happened. He’s been at the CITB years and is a true professional. There is no suggestion in any of this of personal gain – nobody can believe he’s done anything wrong.”

The controversial health and safety test is also at the centre of a power struggle between the CITB and unions over the ownership of the industry skills card CSCS.

An independent report into the CSCS skills scheme, which is £5m in debt, found that the scheme was vulnerable to a legal challenge over the CITB’s ownership of the health and safety test.