During the pandemic, £ 27 billion in fraud was committed – why aren’t we more angry? | Adrien chilis


We have never been far from the fury since the start of the pandemic. There is all the anger at the way the government is handling this and, conversely, the anger at those who are angry with the way the government is handling this. People got bored enough that their neighbors took a second daily walk to call the police.

Even when the good news began to arrive, far from the anger subsiding, it increased. The process of unlocking locks motivated us more than locking in the first place. OK, it’s been a tough time, we’re all under pressure and things are heating up. But why – at a time when real fights erupt over things like wearing or not wearing masks – aren’t we all mad at the billions of pounds of taxpayer fraud?

The amounts are astonishing. In June, not causing the uproar I can remember, the Public Accounts Committee wrote: “The Department for Business… estimates that the rebound loan program could cost the taxpayer £ 27bn in fraud or losses. of credit, the 100% guarantee of the taxpayer remaining the department “relies on the banks which, he admits, lack incentives since it is not their money at stake”. The program, you may remember, has helped small and medium-sized businesses borrow between £ 2,000 and £ 50,000.

No, it is not the money of the banks at stake, nor that of the government; it’s ours. Maybe the sheer size of the sums is part of the reason we don’t engage with them. A guy on a bus without a mask is infuriating, but the billions of pounds stolen from us are just a statistic. There has been a lot of understandable anger over the government’s withdrawal from the increase in universal credit. Less understandable is the lack of anger at the actual theft of money – and this only comes from the loan program – which could have covered four times the cost of maintaining the mark-up.

The committee said the government “dramatically increased” the exposure of taxpayers to fraud and error with its dual decision to drop basic fraud and error checks when repaying Covid-19 loans, and to support people and businesses with which he had no previous relationship ”. I do not know how much we can blame the government for this. The money was needed in a hurry, so it was distributed without the usual checks.

One of the mantras of the time was “trust and protect”. When it comes to “trust”, it seems to me that many of us have been caught out. Hundreds of thousands of people who run small and medium-sized businesses must have been, to put it bluntly, peeing. Most of them would have been taxpayers themselves, which might be another reason we’re decidedly relaxed about this. After all, taxpayers who rob the government have a bit of Robin Hood about it; everything is fair in love and taxation. Imagine it as taxpayers stealing from taxpayers and it’s less Robin Hood, more Dumb and Dumber.

Personally, I am not in the habit of calling the police on my neighbors for anything unless I suspect it is violence. But I would have been more likely to make a call about that stuff than someone going out for a walk with a few friends or even inviting them over for dinner.

Given the oft-deserved bat the government is getting, I’m puzzled as to why it doesn’t sometimes turn around and say something like that: have been able to maintain the elevation for many more years to come. I even came to wonder if they felt that badly gotten or not money was going into the economy, and that’s not a bad thing.

I try not to judge anyone too harshly here, but at some point we will all be asked what we did during the pandemic. At this point, those who requested time off for staff they did not employ, or worked for money while on leave, or took out loans that will never be repaid to buy money. beautiful things for which money was never intended, may or may not choose to brag about it.

Adrian Chiles is a host, writer and columnist for The Guardian

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