The Great Pandemic Robbery

Posted on July 30, 2021

Through my business, I have been hearing various tales of pandemic fraud. These have generally come from sources close to contractors or businesses taking advantage of self-employed grants and government backed loans.

Some of these tales have a whiff of bar stool bullshit about them, whilst others get me feeling agitated. A pandemic, you might hope, would be a collective effort, not a moment of opportunism where hastily put together rescue packages could be easily exploited.

Furlough, Loans and Grants

The furlough system seems to have worked quite well. It has genuinely rescued companies going out of business. However, the loan and grant systems seem to have been too easily exploited. There are too many stories of abuse going around for some of them not to be true.

It’s all a question of morality and a game of chance for construction workers on the CIS (Construction Industry Scheme) taxation arrangement. If the Inland revenue have the time and inclination, they only need to match CIS certificates with grant claims to prove if hand outs are genuine.  I could do that with a simple formula on Microsoft Excel, so I am sure they could.

The bounce back loan scheme seems to be different. It appears that lenders have been queuing up to offer loans, safe in the knowledge the government have guaranteed a large proportion of them (80% I think?). The issue here is that if a company borrows £150k, spends it and goes bust, how is the money clawed back?

I have heard one such a case from a client of mine. It involves a neighbouring business that isn’t worth a carrot, whose owner is suddenly the proud owner of a top of the range Land Rover. He may have inherited wealth of course, but according to credit checks the business is still high risk. It remains worth the square route of fuck all, after receiving bail-out loans.

What I don’t know, is whether the HMRC can go after personal assets if and (probably) when, the company goes bust. Once again, I am sure this is possible if the HMRC have the time and inclination to bother. Try ringing them and I guarantee you will be close to tears by the time you get through. They are understaffed, undertrained and underpaid.

An Upstanding Government

Of course, what is needed to stop people letting pound signs blinkering any efforts to be morally righteous, is an upstanding government. A government that can lead by example and convince people not to exploit rescue packages. Systems that, due to the need for a rapid response, were put together hastily, allowing easy access to finance.

Herein lies the problem. The government has seen Covid as the ultimate moment for a once in a lifetime opportunity to fill their pockets. Amongst the panic and fear of the pandemic, they have made a killing out of the public purse. They have done this by setting up a fast-track system that allowed businesses linked to MPs to set up PPE and Test & Trace supply chains without any due diligence.

Billions of pounds worth of contracts have been dished out to government donors who have performed abysmally or in some cases, not at all. Only last week, we heard of a Tory councillor who has moved into a Cotswolds mansion on the back of a £120 million pay out for safety visors that didn’t work. We also know that the MP who is supposed to ensure corruption doesn’t take place in government, is the husband of the woman in charge of Test & Trace, a £37 billion debacle.

Setting Moral Standards

So, someone tell me this. How does the government expect the masses to behave, when they themselves, are raiding public funds? How do they stand on a podium and tell the public to act with a moral conscience when it comes to claiming furlough, grants, and loans? How do they, with any moral standing, go after people who have ripped the system off and sent British finances plunging into the abyss.

The architects of Brexit and the Covid response, have done it purely to make money for themselves. They have absolutely no credibility or any moral authority when it comes to industrial scale corruption. So how on earth can they go after the people who have exploited the system and tell them they have done wrong?

Everything comes from the top and if the PM and his cabinet are corrupt, it makes it very difficult to throw stones from a glass house.

Have a good weekend.

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