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14th Jun 2024

Labour to bring in Covid corruption commissioner to recoup billions lost to pandemic-related fraud

Jack Peat

Just 2 per cent of fraudulent Covid grants have been recovered

Labour has pledged to appoint a Covid corruption commissioner if they get elected into power on July 4th.

Details set out in the party’s manifesto suggest a new powerful role will be created to recoup public money lost to pandemic-related fraud.

The new commissioner would be given the power to bring together public agencies including HMRC, the Serious Fraud Office and the National Crime Agency to pursue at least £2.6 billion of “lost” public funds.

They would examine contracts line by line and would have to update parliament on their progress in clawing back money.

Speaking in Liverpool, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “The cost to the taxpayer of Covid fraud is estimated at £7.2 billion with every one of those cheques signed by Rishi Sunak as chancellor and yet just 2 per cent of fraudulent Covid grants have been recovered.

“We will appoint a Covid corruption commissioner equipped with the powers they need and the mandate to do what it takes to chase those who have ripped off the taxpayer, taking them to court and clawing back every penny of taxpayers money that they can. That money belongs in our NHS, it belongs in our schools, it belongs in our police and conference – we want that money back.”

The announcement comes as a 46-year-old man was arrested as part of the National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation into PPE Medpro.

The suspect, from Barnet, north London, was held at his home on Wednesday morning, the NCA said.

It is carrying out an investigation into suspected criminal offences in the procurement of PPE contracts by PPE Medpro.

Baroness Michelle Mone, 52, and her husband Doug Barrowman, 59, have faced controversy over the so-called “VIP lane” contracts granted to some suppliers during the coronavirus pandemic.

PPE Medpro, a consortium led by Mr Barrowman, was awarded Government contracts worth more than £200 million to supply personal protective equipment after Lady Mone recommended it to ministers.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has since issued breach of contract proceedings over the 2020 deal on the supply of gowns.

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