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Government slow to recover over £1 billion Covid grant fraud

The government has been slow to recover losses of £1.1 billion from fraud and error in Covid grant schemes, according to MPs in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The latest PAC report found that after spending £22.6 billion on business support schemes during the pandemic, the government had only recovered £20.9 million of the estimated £1.1 billion in fraud and error losses by May 2023.

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) said it would take until the end of 2025 to recover the losses from fraudulent claims and estimated that it would be ‘very expensive’ to check the veracity of every claim.

The Covid grant scheme ran for two years from March 2020 to March 2022, and local authorities handled applications from businesses.

PAC Chair, Dame Meg Hillier MP, said:

‘The government must not wait for the conclusions of the Covid inquiry to learn the lessons laid out in this report. Never again should a national emergency find policy being written as we go along, without firm planning and good local data, with local authorities not properly funded to work in partnership on the support required.

‘The next emergency must find the government rigorously prepared with an understanding of the optimal means to support businesses through difficult times.

‘The lack of planning from government also meant that a door was left wide open in these schemes to fraudsters who took shameful financial advantage of schemes that were designed with national solidarity in mind.’

Internet link: Parliament website

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