“I am not ignoring it” says Sunak on Bounce Back Loan fraud

Published by Scott Challinor on January 27th 2022, 9:09am

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that he is not “ignoring” or “writing off” taxpayer’s money lost to fraud through the Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan scheme.

The government has also hit back at reports that it has written off £4.3 billion of loans issued through the scheme.

Speaking in a week where Treasury minister Lord Agnew resigned over the government’s handling of fraudulent applications to the scheme, the chancellor said that the government would do “everything we can” to recover loans lost to fraud.

The government came under fire late last year from the National Audit Office, which deemed that ministers had failed to put proper safeguards in place to prevent loan money going to fraudsters.

HMRC said in its annual report that 2.5 per cent of the £19.7 billion which went to support self-employed people was also lost to fraudulent claims.

At Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson said that the government did “not support fraudsters or those who steal from the public purse” in response to a question from Labour MP Kate Osamor about the chancellor “writing off £4.3 billion of fraud”.

The chancellor later took to social network Twitter, writing that the public were “absolutely right” to be concerned about such a large amount of money being lost to fraud, adding that he was not “ignoring it” and “definitely not ‘writing it off’”.

The chancellor said that in 2021, the government stopped or recovered nearly £2.2 billion in fraud from the Bounce Back Loan scheme, and £743 million more from overclaimed furlough funds.

Sunak added that the government had invested £100 million into an anti-fraud taskforce, with a 1,265-strong team.

The government has been defensive of how it enabled money to be lost to fraudsters through the scheme, pointing out that businesses were close to failing at “needed [to access] support quickly”, meaning many typical check processes were removed.

Sunak’s opposite number, Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, said that the amount of funds that were allowed to be claimed by fraudsters should come as a “source of enduring shame” to Sunak, as the pressure increases to reclaim the lost money.

Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
January 27th 2022, 9:09am

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