The UK government has so far paid out £35.4bn in furlough money, according to the latest official figures
Up to £3.5bn in taxpayer money may have been paid out by the government, due to wrong or fraudulent claims through its Job Retention scheme.
Jim Harra, HMRC’s top civil servant, has said that his staff believe that between 5% and 10% of the furlough cash could have been handed out wrongly, either through deliberate fraud or through an error.
Mr Harra said: “We have made an assumption for the purposes of our planning that the error and fraud rate in this scheme could be between five per cent and ten per cent.”
“That will range from deliberate fraud through to error.”
This comes after Boris Johnson is reportedly planning new legislation that would override key parts of the withdrawal agreement, the treaty in which would seal the UK’s exit from the European Union in January, in a move that could risk collapsing trade deals, as reported by the Financial Times (FT).
Jim Harra continued by saying:
“What we have said in our risk assessment is we are not going to set out to try to find employers who have made legitimate mistakes in compiling their claims, because this is obviously something new that everybody had to get to grips within a very difficult time,” Mr Harra told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee.
“Although we will expect employers to check their claims and repay any excess amount, but what we will be focusing on is tackling abuse and fraud.”
The government’s furlough scheme was rolled out at breakneck speed during the nation-wide lockdown and at the time was considered to be a huge feat, but it also caused warnings from experts about a certain amount of fraud was inevitable from the scheme.
The Job Retention scheme is currently winding down in the UK and is expected to end for good next month, but businesses who are bringing staff back from being furloughed will receive a further £1,000 if the employee is still in work by the end of January.
This comes after the online retail giant Amazon has said that it will create a further 7,000 jobs in the UK this year to meet the growing demand of its services, it will be taking its total permanent UK workforce to over 40,000 employees.
Some 9.6 million people throughout the UK had been put on the government-supported furlough scheme, with 1.2 million employers having claimed the support by the 16th of August.
Around 2.7 million self-employed people in the country have claimed around £7.8bn in support from the government.