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Fraud risk of covid schemes

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The Public Accounts Committee has published a new report assessing the risk of fraud associated with the UK government’s decision to ‘drop basic fraud and error checks in paying out Covid-19 loans, and to support people and businesses that it had no prior relationship with’. This includes an estimate by the Department for Business (BEIS) that up to £27bn of loans issued through the bounce back loan scheme may never be repaid.

The report Fraud and error (HC 253) presents a number of conclusions and recommendations, including:

  • The covid support schemes risk exposing the taxpayer to potential loss of billions of pounds from increased risk of fraud and error. The Committee urges the Treasury to set out how government departments will implement a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and error following the pandemic.
  • Government focus on existing fraud and error it already understands risks missing other fraud and error arising elsewhere. The Treasury should identify and publish all fraud and error risks to public money across government, and commit to updating this annually.
  • Departments’ ‘lack of urgency to robustly measure fraud and error hinders their ability to direct their counter fraud and error efforts’. The Committee makes several recommendations, including strengthening current reporting requirements to ensure all departments measure and report on the risks of fraud and error within all Covid support schemes.

The Committee also suggests that government departments should make better use of counter-fraud expertise when designing new schemes, ensure they understand whether adequate resources are in place to tackle fraud and error, share information between departments in real time, and adopt a consistent approach to dealing with the consequences of fraud.

Issue: 1539
Categories: News