Anita Clifford appeared on BBC Five Live this morning (3 Dec, 2021) on the 'Wake Up to Money' programme.
She discussed the National Audit's Office report which was published today (The Bounce Back Loan Scheme: an update) that revealed up to £4.9 billion has been lost to bounce back fraud.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Bounce Back Loan Scheme on 27 April 2020. The Scheme was the largest of three COVID-19 related business support loan schemes and sought to provide to the smaller end of small and medium-sized enterprises. The report commented that:
"To achieve the policy intention of supporting small businesses quickly during the pandemic, the government prioritised payment speed over almost all other aspects of value for money. The Scheme facilitated faster lending by removing credit and affordability checks and allowing businesses to self-certify their application documents. As the Scheme progressed, it continued to rely on businesses self- certifying their application details, even as the urgent need for finance reduced. Government ruled out options for additional upfront counter-fraud measures when the Scheme was extended. The impact of prioritising speed is apparent in the high levels of estimated fraud. Counter-fraud activity was implemented too slowly to prevent fraud effectively and the Department’s focus is now on detection and recovery of fraudulent loans."
Anita discussed the reasons behind how fraud of this scale took place, how the money can be recovered and whether criminal enforcement and prosecutions are likely.
Listen here: [BBC Sounds] from 21min:33secs in