Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government Counter Fraud Function estimated that the level of fraud and error against government was already between £29.3 billion and £51.8 billion annually.
The National Audit Office’s work over the past year has shown that the risk of fraud and error has risen significantly during the pandemic, with particular concerns raised about bounce-back loans, the furlough scheme, record numbers of new Universal Credit applications and the Culture Recovery Fund.
In some cases this is because some counter-fraud controls were no longer safe to operate; for example, the Department for Work & Pensions’ requirement for face to face meetings with benefit applicants. In other cases, the speed with which some payments have been made has left government exposed to higher levels of fraud and error than would normally be the case.
This new “process” inquiry will investigate ways to measure how much fraud and error there is in the system, how to put effective counter-fraud and error controls in place and how to best detect and pursue overpayments to protect the taxpayer’s interest. It will examine:
The increase in fraud and error risk
Expectations on government bodies to be transparent about how they tackle fraud and error
How the NAO ensures accountability and transparency over fraud and error in its audits, including good practice against its fraud and error framework
The Committee will question senior officials at HMRC, DWP, BEIS & HM Treasury. If you have evidence on the issues under examination in this inquiry please submit it here by 6pm on Thursday 22 April.