Over £15 billion of taxpayer’s money has been lost through mainly fraud and errors in the government’s emergency loan scheme that was launched to support UK businesses during the pandemic according to the Public Accounts Committee, (PAC).
Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said taxpayers will be exposed to financial risks for decades. Ms Hillier said repeated PAC reports had made clear that a “lack of preparedness and planning, combined with weaknesses in existing systems across government, have led to an unacceptable level of mistakes, waste, loss and openings for fraudsters”.
She said this would end up robbing current and future taxpayers of billions of pounds, and that the “government must be held accountable”.
“It is essential that for as long as we will be paying the costs of Covid-19, which is at least the next 20 years just in some of the loan repayment terms, the Treasury and all of government continue to account specifically for what it has spent in response to the pandemic.
“Crucially this must ensure lessons are learned for when the next big crisis hits – be it climate, health or financial.”
The Treasury rejected the claims in the report, saying that no fraudulent payments have been written off and the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce it has set up is expected to recover up to £1bn from fraudulent or incorrect payments.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “Our Covid support schemes were rolled out at a time of national crisis, protecting millions of jobs and businesses when they needed it most.
“Thanks to the speed and scale of our intervention, the economy is back to pre-pandemic levels and growing at the fastest rate in the G7.”
They argued that the “cost of inaction” could have had a big impact on jobs and livelihoods.