Taken from an article written by our CIO Sakhib Waseem in CityAM – https://www.cityam.com/the-role-of-smart-government-in-the-uks-post-pandemic-recovery/
Picture this: a country where 99% of public services are online, citizens vote via digital ID cards over the web, welfare and financial support are provided only to those who need it, with fraud dealt with swiftly, and transparency, trust and efficiency lie at the heart of government.
This is a far cry from the situation in the UK. It is estimated that in 2018-19 fraud cost the UK taxpayer between £29.3 – 51.8 billion, a problem that has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the onset of the pandemic, the UK Government introduced a series of large-scale schemes to provide vital support to the many vulnerable businesses and individuals across the country.
Bounce Back Loans have been the most popular of the Covid-19 support schemes, with £46.6 billion paid out to over 1.5 million businesses since inception.
Whilst this scheme has been integral for many of the businesses who have had their operations put at risk due to Covid-19 lockdown measures, a recent report from the Public Accounts Committee estimates that nearly half of the loans paid out during the pandemic will never be repaid. With the loans 100% guaranteed by the UK Government, this comes at significant cost to the taxpayer.
So why are the instances of fraud so high? The PAC report found that the speed with which Covid-19 loans were set up and paid out exposed the system to increased levels of fraud and error. The report specifically points to the Government’s decision to not only relax usual fraud controls – allowing companies to self-declare key information such as earnings – but to also support businesses that it had no previous relationship with.
This issue has been exacerbated by the lack of anti-fraud capability across the responsible governmental departments. The PAC report identified, for example, that whilst there are over 16,000 members of the Counter Fraud Function, there is limited knowledge of whether these individuals are being deployed in the right areas, according to need and in quick response to growing issues of fraud in various areas.
In addition, whilst it is well known that the timely sharing of data can be used to prevent fraud through effective data matching and detection, information sharing across government departments has been limited and opportunity to prevent fraud in real-time has been missed.
The UK Government now finds itself in the position of having to investigate each and every instance of fraud in its Covid support schemes manually, determining whether there are grounds to pursue the claimant to retrieve funds. This process will take months if not years, and then it will take further years to bring a case to the Crown Prosecution Service, costing the government millions of pounds.
A better solution must be found, and the answer lies in technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the swift adoption of new technologies in both our work and personal lives, to enable remote working and socialising and accelerate the move towards the digitisation of society.
The UK Government has no choice but adopt such technologies, by leading us closer to the concept of “smart government”, using technology to make better decisions, improve the democratic process, and transform the way public services are delivered.
The Proof of Trust is the solution. The Proof of Trust’s innovative globally patented protocol would sit on top of the Government’s existing outdated infrastructure, and be ready in a matter of days, to provide an assurance layer to legacy systems. The Proof of Trust will analyse all potentially fraudulent Covid support scheme claims within a matter of days.
The Proof of Trust’s integration of a network of highly experienced human delegates, using the world’s leading legal and accountancy firms, will review a precis of relevant information from each claim before making a legally binding judgement, meaning these systems will both automate the time-consuming elements of the review process and fast track the decision making, without forcing the Government to rely solely on a digital system or overhaul its legacy systems.
Forward-thinking counties all over the world have already adapted and adopted The Proof of Trust to ensure they are secured against the mass fraud we’ve witnessed in the UK since this pandemic began. If the UK government fail to take action and put in place this technology, then they are leaving themselves wide open to an even greater threat of fraud on a level never before seen when the next global pandemic occurs.
As the UK seeks to preserve the good in our crucial Covid-19 stimulus schemes, the Government must look to new technologies that build upon proven practices to streamline otherwise cumbersome and expensive processes. In doing so, we can assure the UK population that their money is not being wasted and that crucial public funds are being utilised effectively, as we recover from the pandemic and transition back into the normal world.