Billions of dollars have been lost to fraud and error in Britain's support schemes in coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, an official report said on Wednesday.
The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons, the lower house of British Parliament, said the total losses from fraud and error across all Covid-19 state-backed business schemes are expected to be at least 15 billion pounds ($20.4 billion).
These schemes included the furlough scheme, loan programs, grants and credit welfare payments backed by different government departments, according to the committee.
In the government's Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, known as the furlough scheme, around 5.3 billion pounds ($7.21 billion) are estimated to have been lost to fraud and error, said the report, adding that the loss represents 8.7 per cent of the total money distributed through the scheme, Xinhua news agency reported.
"A lack of preparedness and planning, combined with weaknesses in existing systems across government, has 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," said Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee.
Hillier added that taxpayers could be paying the cost of the Covid-19 response for the next 20 years.
The National Audit Office's Covid-19 cost tracker reported in its September 2021 update that the British government had spent 261 billion pounds ($355 billion) on measures in response to the pandemic, according to the report.