ALMOST £6.5 million in overclaimed Covid-19 funding was still to be recovered at the end of August, the Comptroller and Auditor General found in her latest report into the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Reiterating comments from a previous report that focused on the Co-Funded Payroll Scheme – which subsidised wages for hard-hit businesses during the height of the pandemic – Lynn Pamment said that audits should be carried out more quickly after the payment of claims to reduce the likelihood of non-recovery.
She also highlighted issues with the Visitor Accommodation Support Scheme and the Fixed Cost Support Scheme which had overclaiming rates of 24% and 22% respectively.
However, the C&AG said that the government’s social and economic measures to support recovery from the pandemic “appear to have met their objectives”, although she was unable to offer the same reassurance about all health-related schemes because of a “lack of sufficient financial and performance information”.
In her latest report into the government’s handling of the pandemic – which it is estimated will have cost some £363 million by 2026 – the C&AG acknowledged a swift response to supporting the Island’s economic recovery.
Measures included the Spend Local scheme, and the Fiscal Stimulus Fund, which she said was subject to strong governance procedures and “undoubtedly resulted in improved facilities and buildings”, although some were completed outside the target time-frame.
Ms Pamment said: “The measures put in place to protect businesses and individuals from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic appear to have achieved the objectives established by government.
“There have been relatively few business failures and employment has remained at, or is better than, pre-pandemic levels. There are early signs that the economy is recovering.
“It is, however, difficult to assess what would have happened to businesses without the support from the government.”
Commenting on educational outcomes, Ms Pamment noted that so far there had been “no deterioration from what would have been expected if there had been no pandemic” with performance comparing favourably with the UK.
She also found that the Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department had succeeded in establishing schemes in response to the pandemic and distributing initial support to relevant delivery organisations quickly. Overall those schemes had been well managed, she said.
She highlighted the Health Department’s success in attracting dental practices to take part in the children’s dentistry scheme, noting that around 1,300 appointments had been generated, and she said that recovery monies helped the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services maintain waiting times despite a significant increase in referrals.
Meanwhile, the Long Covid clinic had reviewed and managed affected Islanders with over 450 appointments in 2022.
This had led to many being successfully managed, treated and subsequently discharged from the service.
However, she added: “I have not been able to assess the results of some of the health-related schemes managed by HCS due to the lack of sufficient financial and performance information.”