The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced that £25 million will be spent on a new Public Sector Fraud Authority (PSFA) taskforce that will enlist an elite team of experts to crack down on fraudsters who took advantage of the government's Covid support schemes.
HM Treasury reported the new squad will be based in the Cabinet Office and will double funding for the Government’s central counter fraud capacity and will be in place by July.
Mr Sunak said, "People are rightly furious that fraudsters took advantage of our vital Covid support schemes, and we are acting to make sure they pay the price."
The new body will recruit leading data analytics experts and economic crime investigators to recover money stolen from COVID support schemes and spot suspicious companies and people seeking Government contracts. Counter fraud experts will also mount mandatory inspections on Whitehall programmes to uncover vulnerabilities.
The move follows the resignation of the counter-fraud minister, Lord Agnew, in January in frustration over what he called the 'lamentable' attempts to tackle COVID fraud.
The Public Accounts Committee reported this year that it expects that all Coronavirus state-backed schemes will cost at least £15bn in fraud and has exposed the taxpayer to "substantial, long-term financial risks".
More details of the new counter-fraud squad will emerge when the minutes from the first meeting of the government’s new Efficiencies and Value for Money Committee are released.
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