Spending watchdog blasts PM over over billions spent on Covid schemes

Spending watchdog blasts Boris Johnson’s Government for splashing billions of pounds on Covid schemes without working out ‘what difference they make’

  • National Audit Office boss Gareth Davies took aim at ministers in news article
  •  Warned lessons that could have been learned from pandemic not being heeded
  • NAO found just 8% of big government projects has their success evaluated
  • The head of the National Audit Office slammed Boris Johnson‘s government today for spending billions of pounds on Covid schemes without bothering to see if they provided value for money. 

    Comptroller and Auditor General Gareth Davies took aim at ministers in a withering newspaper column today. 

    He said that lessons that could have been learned from the pandemic were not being heeded, whether it was success stories or costly failures.

    Ministers have spent an eyewatering amount of taxpayers’ money in combatting Covid, with questions raised about how billions of pounds have been spent.  

    But the NAO found that just 8 per cent of big government projects had put in place plans to evaluate their success. 

    Writing in the Times, Mr Davies said: ‘Prior to the pandemic the government did take forward many lessons from the simulation exercises it undertook to prepare for potential pandemics. However, it did not act on some warnings that would have helped it prepare for a pandemic like Covid-19.’

    ‘What we have found by auditing government’s work is that many of the interventions carried out by government are either not evaluated robustly or not evaluated at all. 

    ‘This means government is not learning from its successes or failures, and has little information in most policy areas on what difference is made by the billions of pounds being spent.’

    Comptroller and Auditor General Gareth Davies took aim at ministers in a withering newspaper column today.

    Comptroller and Auditor General Gareth Davies took aim at ministers in a withering newspaper column today.

    Ministers have spent an eyewatering amount of taxpayers' money in combatting Covid, with questions raised about how billions of pounds have been spent. Pictured: Boris Johnson at a school in Uxbridge today

    Ministers have spent an eyewatering amount of taxpayers’ money in combatting Covid, with questions raised about how billions of pounds have been spent. Pictured: Boris Johnson at a school in Uxbridge today

    Mr Davies singled out the Government’s £2billion Kickstart scheme, which was launched in September 2020 to support firms to offer six-month work placements for 16 to 24-year-olds who are in receipt of Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

    The scheme pays employers £1,500 for every 16-24-year-old on Universal Credit taken on. 

    It was criticised a year ago after it was revealed that while more than 120,000 jobs have been created, just 1,868 people had started their placements. 

    Mr Davies wrote: The Department for Work and Pensions is investing in an evaluation of Kickstart.

    However, it has limited assurance over the quality of work placements created by the scheme, or whether jobs created by employers would have existed anyway. 

    ‘Without having done more during the scheme’s operation to monitor what kinds of jobs and training employers are providing in practice, the department will find it much harder to deliver a robust estimate of the scheme’s long-term impact.’

    It is not the first time the NAO has criticised Kickstart. A report last November found the DWP conducted ‘relatively little monitoring’ of whether the jobs created are not replacing pre-existing roles and include the right level of training.

    At the time the Government insisted the scheme had ‘already delivered over 100,000 new life-changing jobs for young jobseekers on Universal Credit who were at risk of long-term unemployment and will continue to deliver opportunities for young people’.