Lord Theodore Agnew, who was responsible for Whitehall's efficiency and transformation in the treasury and cabinet office and counter fraud, has resigned from the House of Lords in response to a question put forward by the Labour Party stating he was unable to defend the government's record.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government set up the Bounce-Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) to award to 1.1 million small businesses across the U.K. over £47b.
The scheme served the purpose of saving small businesses that were at risk during the pandemic and was the largest part of England's £77b COVID-19 loan program.
Lord Agnew has claimed that the U.K. government had agreed to guarantee loans in the BBLS, but had so far reimbursed banks of almost £1b for loans that had been defaulted on.
To add, Lord Agnew said that more than a quarter of this was estimated for loans that were fraudulent.
Lord Agnew said “The oversight by both the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the British Business Bank of the panel lenders of BBLS has been nothing less than woeful, they have been ably assisted by the treasury who appear to have no knowledge or interest in the consequences of fraud to our economy or society.”
In his resignation letter, which was submitted to the prime minister, Lord Agnew declared the track record of dealing with fraud as “desperately inadequate.”
Lord Agnew went on, writing “It has certainly not been through want of trying, but the government machine has been almost impregnable to my endless exhortations.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has made an estimate suggesting that the overall losses due to fraud combined with companies unable to repay COVID loans amounts to approximately £20b, with around £17b of those losses relating to the BBLS.