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Rapid Response Team: 0800 559 3500
Switchboard: +44 (0)203 947 1539
Rapid Response Team: 0800 559 3500
Switchboard: +44 (0)203 947 1539

UK Fraud: £21bn Lost in Public Funds

Author: Nicola Sharp  11 April 2023

The National Audit Office (NAO) has reported that there has been a huge increase in the amount of money lost as a result of fraud since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the NAO, more than £21 billion of public funds was lost to fraud in the two years after the pandemic began. The total for the two years before the pandemic was £5.5 billion.

Approximately £7 billion of the £21 billion involved fraud relating to financial support schemes introduced by the government during the pandemic. The NAO has said it is “very unlikely’’ that the bulk of this will ever be recovered.

While these figures are high, the astonishing increase in fraud since the pandemic is set to rise even further once the authorities have caught up with the huge number of fraud investigations which are yet to be concluded.

According to the NAO, many public bodies do not yet know to what extent they have been affected by fraud. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is working towards recovering losses through its taxpayer protection task force. This is an organisation of tax specialists that aims to recover £1.1 billion through reviews and investigations.

The Department for Work and Pensions has stated that it was able to save £500 million by reviewing retrospective Universal Credit claims submitted during the pandemic. It is said that more than £1.5 billion of those fraudulent claims were still being paid out in 2021 and 2022.

In response to the sheer number of fraud cases, the government set up the Public Sector Fraud Authority (PSFA) in 2022 to tackle, prevent and manage fraud committed through public bodies.

In the last two years, the government has recovered more than £3.1 billion in losses to fraud, much of which was lost during the pandemic. But this seems to be the tip of the iceberg.

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Nicola Sharp


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Nicola is known for her fraud, civil recovery, arbitration and business crime expertise, her experience of leading the largest financial disputes and multinational investigations and her skills in devising preventative measures and conducting internal investigations for corporates.

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