Oh dear. It seems that Sir Humphrey has messed up again. Perusing parliament’s records this morning, Mr S was struck by a written ministerial statement put down by Kemi Badenoch’s Department for Business and Trade (DBT). The nearly-created ministry came to life back in February, when the old Department for International Trade (DIT) was combined with Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The merger went off without a hitch at the time but it appears that no-one remembered to check the books. Among DBT’s responsibilities is guaranteeing Covid loan guarantees. But according to its statement today:
Following routine review, it has been noted that at the Department for Business and Trade’s Main Estimate for 2023-24 Government officials did not include the cash required to meet payments for these pre-existing and budgeted arrangements. Parliamentary approval for additional cash of £3,659,625,000 will be sought in a Supplementary Estimate for the Department for Business and Trade. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £3,659,625,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund. The cash advance will be repaid upon receiving Royal Assent on the Supply and Appropriation Bill.
In other words, £3.6 billion needs to be found by the Treasury because someone forgot to budget for the Covid loans. A source at the Business and Trade Department told Steerpike that: ‘It’s quite unbelievable. It’s well known BEIS was a bit of a mess, but for their own accountants to forget about covid loans when doing their own books just beggars belief. When Kemi found out she hit the roof and demanded DBT pull its finger out on tackling covid loan fraud.’
Let’s just hope officials don’t forget about launching their new strategy to fight said fraud later this month…