Author: Nicola Sharp 2 November 2022
Nicola Sharp of Rahman Ravelli details the closing of the unit set up to recover fraudulently-obtained coronavirus payments.
The Treasury is to close the taskforce that was created to recoup taxpayer money lost to Covid fraud.
The Taxpayer Protection Taskforce was set up by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor to try and recover as much as possible of the estimated £5.8 billion lost to fraud via the three coronavirus support schemes. It has recovered hundreds of millions less than expected.
The Treasury had aimed to recover between £800 million and £1 billion from those perpetrating coronavirus support scheme fraud. Yet this has been revised to between £525 million and £625 million. The Treasury has said the recovery figure has been revised downward because it is now estimated that £4.5 billion was lost to fraudsters rather than the original figure of £5.8billion.
The Taskforce is set to close in March next year, as originally planned; having cost £100 million over two years.
Announcing the Taskforce’s closure, HM Revenue and Customs said: “We found that the majority of large businesses got their claims right and that we were largely successful in stopping organised criminals gaining access to grants.
“As planned, we will begin to wind our activity down from March 2023, with COVID scheme compliance activity moving to business-as-usual tax compliance work by September 2023. This will allow us to deal with all aspects of a customer’s potential non-compliance issues, related to the scheme and more widely.
“Moving the work of the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce into business-as-usual compliance activity is the most efficient way to ensure we protect and recover taxpayers’ money.’’
Critics have accused the Taskforce of being the government’s attempt to chase billions of pounds that was lost due to a lack of proper security checks when money was being paid out.
Earlier this year, Lord Theodore Agnew, the Treasury minister responsible for cross-government efficiency, quit. He said the handling of Covid fraud was “one of the most colossal cock-ups in recent government management” and accused the Treasury of having "little interest in the consequences of fraud to our society". Last year, the National Audit Office criticised the government for failing to implement measures to prevent people exploiting coronavirus schemes.
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.