Boris Johnson received another blow with the resignation of a minister over the government’s dismal results in tackling covid business bounce-back loan fraud
Lord Theodore Agnew, who served as Whitehall’s efficiency minister, has resigned in disgust from the upper house dispatch box.
In response to an urgent question from Labor about Covid loan fraud, Agnew told his peers he was unable to defend the government’s case.
Of the 47 billion granted to more than 1.1 million small businesses under the Government’s Bounce Back Lending Scheme (BBLS), around 5 billion have been threatened by fraudsters exploiting weak controls built into the loan scheme.
Agnew said oversight by both the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the British Business Bank was nothing short of dismal.
The UK government estimates that overall losses from fraud and businesses failing to repay loans across all Covid schemes would likely amount to nearly £20bn, of which around £17bn related to the loan scheme.
Agnew said the government, which had agreed to fully guarantee the loans, had so far reimbursed banks nearly $1 billion for defaulted loans.
He added that more than a quarter of this amount was estimated for fraudulent loans.
Agnew alleged that schoolboy mistakes were made by officials and lenders, noting that more than 1,000 companies that received bounce-back loans (BBLS) were not trading before the pandemic began.
said Agnew. They have been ably aided by the Treasury which seems to have no knowledge or interest in the consequences of fraud on our economy or our society.
Agnew said BEIS only employed two fraud managers at the start of the pandemic, neither of whom had fraud experience.
Massive fraud is said to have taken place on covid loans with officials and banks slow to tighten rules to prevent obvious criminal activity, such as multiple applications or applications by companies created after the pandemic began or dissolved before she doesn’t start.
In his resignation letter to Boris Johnson, Agnew hit out at the hopelessly inadequate track record in the fight against fraud.
He wrote: It is certainly not for lack of trying, but the machinery of government has been almost impregnable to my endless exhortations.
Agnew insisted his resignation was in no way related to the other scandals surrounding the Johnson government.
Rachel Reeves MP, Labors Shadow Chancellor said: It should be a lasting source of shame for the Chancellor that he has so nonchalantly written off 4.3 billion taxpayers’ money which is now in the hands of criminals and gangs
The fact that the government’s anti-fraud minister feels unable to defend the government’s record on the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money handed over to criminals tells you everything you need to know about this government’s incompetence.”
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