This website uses cookies

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. By using our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy

Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Committee finds BEIS continues to make slow progress on counter fraud activities

Committee finds BEIS continues to make slow progress on counter fraud activities


Department said to be writing off funds lost to fraud and error in covid-19 schemes

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee published its final report on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) annual report and accounts 2021-22 on 26 April, which finds that the department continues to make slow progress on counter fraud activities related to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme introduced in response to the covid-19 pandemic and that the department is ‘effectively writing off’ nearly £1bn paid out in error by local authorities on its behalf.

The Committee’s report covers a range of aspects including the support provided to businesses during the covid-19 pandemic, the compensation provided to the victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal and issues concerning the accuracy of the Companies House Register. In regards to the latter, the report finds that confidence in the Companies House Register is being undermined by errors and inaccuracies, including false statements, fake entries, errors, fictional company directors and individuals named without their consent. Despite the fact that making a false declaration to Companies House has been a criminal offence since 2009, the Committee states that so far there has only been one such conviction.

Among the recommendations to government, the report states that BEIS should set out the total number of convictions for making a false declaration to Companies House, and the actions that are being taken to ensure offenders are identified and prosecuted. It is requested that BEIS quantify its latest estimates of fraud and error in each of the covid-19 grant schemes and explain its justification where it is not seeking to pursue recoveries from businesses. The department is also advised to publish its counter-fraud strategy immediately and make maximum use of available resources to target its activity where it can be most cost effective.

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Dame Meg Hillier MP, said: “At a time of financial crisis the department for business has lost billions of taxpayers’ desperately needed funds. It shows no real signs of making the improvements that would prevent the big mistakes it has made over many years, especially during the pandemic, happening all over again. It’s moving too slowly to compensate people for the lives ruined through the Post Office Horizon scandal. Years of slogans about Britain being open for business are undermined by a dysfunctional company registration system that gives no confidence either in the proper operation of business and VAT systems, or that it will help to prevent the fraud, now the biggest crime in this country.”