An influential committee of MPs has slammed the Government over its financial response to the coronavirus pandemic, warning that billions of pounds of money has been lost because of ‘unacceptable’ mistakes.
The Public Accounts Committee today published a new report which is highly critical of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Treasury.
PAC chairwoman, Dame Meg Hillier, said a ‘lack of preparedness and planning’ had led to ‘an unacceptable level of mistakes, waste, loss and openings for fraudsters’.
This will ‘end up robbing current and future taxpayers of billions of pounds’, she said.
It is currently uncertain exactly how much Covid cash will be lost but the PAC said it will be ‘running into many billions of pounds’.
The PAC said fraud and error across the support schemes run by HMRC, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is expected to cost ‘at least £15 billion’.
The National Audit Office said the cost of the Government’s pandemic measures will hit a total of £370billion over their lifetime.
Dame Meg said: ‘As the PAC has made clear across a series of reports on the costs of Covid, lack of preparedness and planning, combined with weaknesses in existing systems across Government, have led to an unacceptable level of mistakes, waste, loss and openings for fraudsters which will all end up robbing current and future taxpayers of billions of pounds.
‘It is essential that for as long as we will be paying the costs of Covid19, which is at least the next 20 years just in some of the loan repayment terms, the Treasury and all of Government continue to account specifically for what it has spent in response to the pandemic.
‘Government must be held accountable in this way to all the future taxpayers who will be paying for this response. Crucially this must ensure lessons are learned for when the next big crisis hits – be it climate, health or financial.’
The PAC is calling for all Whitehall departments to set out the specific annual cost of Covid in the years ahead.