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New counter fraud task force 'faces an uphill struggle'

Published on 28 April 2022

Questions raised over effectiveness of Public Sector Fraud Authority to find lost Covid billions with just a £25million budget

In comparison, National Crime Agency receives a £458m budget

Commenting on today's news that the UK government will launch a counter fraud task force to hunt down lost Covid billions, Sam Tate, RPC's head of white collar crime, said: 

"Clearly something needs to be done about Covid loan fraud, but is the Chancellor's Public Sector Fraud Authority it? There certainly seems many reasons to think it has an uphill struggle to say the least. 

"First, its budget of £25 million is only 5% of the National Crime Agency's [£458 million]. Second, even if staffed by an army of Sherlock Holmes, there is no additional funding for prosecutors such as the Serious Fraud Office. Let's not forget, there is a backlog of around 50,0000 cases in the Crown Court.

Finally, the Treasury itself was responsible for distributing Covid loans in the first place – this new body, which reports to the Chancellor is therefore unlikely to truly look at the root cause of the losses, still less to tie the hands of the Treasury for future Covid loans.

"To be able to recover lost money, the authority will need to rely on international cooperation, as fraudsters are thought to be based abroad. Typically, international cooperation focuses on the big cases, given the limited resources at disposal for authorities, so it will need to be seen to what extent cooperation will function on a high number of small cases."