The National Audit Office, which produces the reports that underpin the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiries into the government’s use of taxpayer money, has launched a new programme of work on the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This will be a “substantial programme of independent reports from the National Audit Office to Parliament and the public on how the money has been spent and the lessons learned” in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NAO is rapidly producing this programme of reports NAO to support Parliament and the PAC in its scrutiny of government’s response to COVID-19, and unlike “usual” NAO reports does not at this stage assess their value for money or their effectiveness.
The Committee will therefore seek to question Government officials in depth on their processes in executing this “unprecedented in modern times” public spending response, and the effectiveness and efficiency of this spending. The Committee’s next inquiry will also be on the next of these Covid-19 response reports, on preparations in the NHS and social care for the Covid-19 peak in the UK.
In the first of the reports of this new programme, Overview of the UK government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NAO outlines the range of measures taken by government to mid-May and where financial support has been targeted. It finds that by early May, the Government had made over 500 announcements about how it is responding to Covid 19, and committed to over £124 billion of spending.
The £124.3 billion of programmes, initiatives and spending commitments announced by government covers:
Grants like those to small and medium businesses, and other payments - £111.3 billion
Expected costs of loans, like the CovidBusiness Interruption Ioans which the government has guaranteed - £5.0 billion
Increases to welfare benefits - £8.0 billion
The Government’s response was mobilised across five areas:
£6.6 billion: 4 Health and social care measures, covering equipment, testing, services and vaccine development
£15.8 billion: Other public services and the wider emergency response, including funding for local government services, education and children’s services
£19.5 billion: Support for individuals, including benefits and sick pay and support for vulnerable people
£82.2 billion: Support for businesses, including support for retaining jobs, loans and grants; and
£0.2 billion: Other support, including providing the public with information
The actual costs of government’s response are uncertain - these preliminary figures do not include tax receipts lost in the same period, for example - and will depend on the continuing health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
If you have evidence on the effectiveness or efficiency of the Government spending in response to Covid-19 described in this report, please submit it here by close of Thursday 11 June 2020.