The government last week defended its record of providing £80billion of job support to businesses during the pandemic, contesting the £4.3billion figure, while acknowledging that a fraud occurred. was produced. However, on Monday Theodore Agnew, a Tory who sits in the House of Lords, announced he was stepping down as deputy minister to the Treasury and Cabinet departments. Part of his role included monitoring spending and curbing fraud, citing “schoolboy mistakes”.
Speaking on Friday, Daniel Martin, partner at JMW Solicitors, said: ‘This is fraud on a scale never seen before and I think there will be increasing pressure to enforce any fraud. The problem is one of resources.
The government needed to quickly provide cash to businesses in an unprecedented situation where the entire economy was under threat, Martin said.
He added: “That meant making the money available with very little due diligence and they would have been aware from the start that there was a significant risk of fraud.
“The numbers involved are shocking, however; with tens of thousands of fraud reports and estimates of over £4billion in taxpayer money potentially claimed fraudulently, you would expect a greater investment from HMRC to recover these funds as soon as possible .
There had been a very low number of reported arrests to date and the enforcement effort currently appeared “light and slow”, Mr Martin said.
He said. “There’s a lot more that could be done that currently isn’t and will be increasingly frustrating for the public.
“HMRC fraud investigations can take a long time, sometimes years, before they come to court.”
There are a large number of complaints to deal with and it may well be that many companies under investigation find the case “dragging”, he warned.
READ MORE: BBC fury: Plan to target license evasions leaves MP ‘stunned’
“Our Covid support programs have been rolled out with unprecedented speed to protect millions of jobs and businesses at a time when families need them most. As a result, our economy has returned to levels of before the pandemic and is growing at the fastest rate in the G7.
“Last year we stopped or recovered nearly £2.2bn of potential fraud under the Bounce Back loan scheme and £743m of overclaimed furlough grants.
“We have also invested over £100m in a Taxpayer Protection Task Force of almost 1,300 staff – which is expected to recoup a further £1bn of taxpayers’ money.”