UK junior minister quits over 'woeful' efforts to stop Covid-19 loan fraud

25/1/2022 1:21:00 AM

UK junior minister quits over 'woeful' efforts to stop Covid-19 loan fraud

https://str.sg/wARnLONDON (REUTERS) - A British junior government minister resigned on Monday (Jan 24) in protest at what he said were"woeful" efforts to stop the fraudulent abuse of coronavirus support schemes.Mr Theodore Agnew, a Conservative who sits in Parliament's Upper House, said he was quitting his post as a minister in the Treasury and Cabinet Office departments. Part of his role included oversight of spending and reducing fraud.

The government last week defended its record of providing support to businesses during the pandemic, disputing reports it had written off 4.3 billion pounds (S$7.8 billion) in fraud across more than 80 billion pounds of job support given by the Treasury, but acknowledging that some fraud had occurred.

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sg/wARn LONDON (REUTERS) - A British junior government minister resigned on Monday (Jan 24) in protest at what he said were"woeful" efforts to stop the fraudulent abuse of coronavirus support schemes. Mr Theodore Agnew, a Conservative who sits in Parliament's Upper House, said he was quitting his post as a minister in the Treasury and Cabinet Office departments. Outlining the changes to the rules, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs from Feb 11 those requirements would be axed, to make travel easier and cheaper, and provide"certainty" for the sector. Part of his role included oversight of spending and reducing fraud. "This is going to be one of the top access to medicines issues of the coming year. The government last week defended its record of providing support to businesses during the pandemic, disputing reports it had written off 4. The self-isolation requirement for unjabbed arrivals will also end from the same date, but PCR tests before and after travel and a completed passenger locator form will still be needed, he added.3 billion pounds (S$7. "The COVID-19 pandemic is now entering its third year and we are at a critical juncture," he told a news conference earlier.

8 billion) in fraud across more than 80 billion pounds of job support given by the Treasury, but acknowledging that some fraud had occurred. The UK will also accept vaccine certificates from a further 16 countries - including China and Mexico - meaning it now recognises more than 180 countries' COVID-19 jabs documentation. The results were significantly better than those from a clinical trial of Merck Inc's rival oral antiviral Molnupiravir. However, Mr Agnew said oversight of some other schemes - administered by the British Business Bank and the business ministry - had been"woeful", and that the Treasury had shown little interest in the wider consequences of fraud. "Given that I'm the minister for counter-fraud, it feels somewhat dishonest to stay on in that role if I'm incapable of doing it properly, let alone defending our track record," Mr Agnew told the House of Lords, listing his efforts to raise a number of problems through official channels. "OPEN FOR BUSINESS" The UK, among the worst hit countries in Europe by the pandemic with a virus death toll of nearly 154,000, has seen new cases fall dramatically from record daily levels late last month. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said on Twitter that Mr Agnew had served with diligence and commitment and thanked him for his"tireless work" during the pandemic. The United States has already agreed to buy 20 million courses of the treatment this year, paying Pfizer more than US$10. The National Audit Office (NAO), which scrutinises public-sector spending, said in December the government had failed to guard properly against fraud in its 47 billion pound Covid-19 emergency lending programme for small businesses, opening itself up to billions of pounds of losses. Johnson had reimposed stricter rules in December - including mandatory pre-arrival tests and self-isolation until travellers had tested negative - after a surge in cases due to emergence of the Omicron variant. He told board members he was seeking an overhaul of the agency's funding model, with Germany now the largest donor, supplanting Washington which had accused the WHO of pro-China bias under former President Donald Trump's administration.

The business ministry estimated that around 4.9 billion pounds of the loan claims had been fraudulent, the NAO said. Last week, Johnson also scrapped almost all domestic restrictions in England after several weeks of falling case rates. The drugmaker's revenue in 2022 is expected to top US$100 billion, according to analyst estimates, more than half of that from sales of Paxlovid and its COVID-19 vaccine. "Schoolboy errors were made," Mr Agnew said."For example, allowing over 1,000 companies to receive the bounce-back loans that were not even trading when Covid struck. The embattled leader has been engulfed in scandals for weeks, leading to a clamour of calls for his resignation, including from within his own ruling Conservative party." The Treasury said it was taking action on multiple fronts to crack down on anyone who had sought to exploit its programmes. But the company does not expect those generic companies to be able to provide significant supply until 2023.

"Our Covid support schemes were implemented at unprecedented speed to protect millions of jobs and businesses at a time when families needed it the most," a spokesperson said. Business groups and travel sector operators welcomed the latest travel changes. "Absolutely no fraudulent claims have been written off - last year we stopped or recovered nearly 2.2 billion pounds in potential fraud from the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and 743 million pounds of overclaimed furlough grants. A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic called them"the final step in moving towards frictionless air travel"." Mr Agnew walked out of the debating chamber at the end of his statement, drawing applause from opposition lawmakers for his parting words:"I hope that, as a virtually unknown minister beyond this place, giving up my career might prompt others more important than me to get behind this and sort it out ..

. thank you and goodbye." The British Business Bank said it had ensured appropriate counter-fraud measures had been in place from the start of the scheme. "The Bank is working with accredited lenders to ensure they fulfil their regulatory obligations along with their contractual commitments under the terms of the Guarantee Agreement, to recover the loans and tackle fraud," a spokesperson said in a statement. Join .