LONDON (Reuters) – The British government will be exposed to financial risks from its £ 372 billion pandemic spending over decades, according to reports from lawmakers on Sunday who also said more than £ 2 billion had been spent on equipment. unusable protection devices.
In two reports on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said lessons must be learned before a promised public inquiry to be held in 2022.
“With the sums of money spent on COVID measures so far, the government needs to be clear, now, how this will be handled in the future and for what period of time,” said Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC.
“Continued risk to the taxpayer will run for 20 years on things like arts and culture recovery loans, much less on other new risks that departments across government must quickly learn to manage.”
The PAC highlighted an estimated loss of £ 26 billion through fraud and defaulting on loans made to businesses to help cope with the pandemic as an example of ongoing financial risk.
In a second report, the committee said there had also been “unacceptably high” levels of waste, with the purchase of 2.1 billion items of inappropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), which equates to more than 2 billion. pounds of public money.
The government said that only 0.84% of all PPE had been found to be unusable and had plans to reuse that which could not be used in the health service.
“There are robust processes in place to ensure that government spending always provides value for money for the taxpayer,” said a spokesman for the Department of Health.
The opposition Labor Party said the findings were further proof of the government’s failures and said the investigation into the pandemic should begin immediately.
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