£21BN OF PUBLIC MONEY LOST IN FRAUD SINCE COVID PANDEMIC BEGAN Most of it will never be recovered
Tens of billions of pounds have been lost to fraud since the start of the COVID pandemic, according to the National Audit Office (say NAO), with little chance of the majority being reclaimed.
Of the £21bn total identified by the NAO to have been lost by the government, more than £7bn is linked to schemes introduced during the pandemic
Levels of fraud rose almost fourfold from £5.5bn two years before the pandemic to £21bn in the following two years.
The NAO said many public bodies are unaware of the amount of fraud they face, with a host of COVID employment scheme fraudulent claims being chased up by the HMRC.
The NAO said that HMRC expects to have recovered £1.1bn out of an estimated £4.5bn by the time its taxpayer protection taskforce – a body of more than 1,200 tax specialists that responds to error and fraud – is scaled down.
The report says: “The Department for Work & Pensions generated fraud and error savings of £500 million through its retrospective review of Universal Credit claims made over the height of the pandemic, but at least £1.5bn of fraudulent claims that started during that period were still being paid in 2021-22.
If this money is not recovered, it runs the risk that people come to perceive fraud and corruption across the government as normal and tolerated.