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Coronavirus / Covid business grant scheme could have done with more checks, auditor says

THE CORONAVIRUS business grant scheme was implemented well by Shetland Islands Council but there should have been more stringent checks between grants awarded and payments made, according to an internal audit.

A report showed that in one instance a duplicate payment of £10,000 was made to one applicant by mistake due to two employees processing the money at the same time.

Another applicant also received an initial small business grant of £10,000 before being given a newly self-employed hardship grant of £2,000, which was not permitted.

As of July 837 applications for funding were received for the cash, with 732 grants awarded.

This amounted to nearly £7.8 million in total.

The funding came from the government, but it was administered by local authorities.

The council’s internal audit report said in July that the “majority of key controls are in place and operating effectively”.

However, it found that “basic reconciliations are not being carried out between the grants awarded and payments made”.

The audit looked at a sample of 35 applications.

Requests for repayment were issued with regards to the applicants who received more money than they should have.

Lerwick member Stephen Leask said staff had been working under great stress and workload during the onset of the pandemic.

Internal auditor Duncan Black said there was no blame attached in the report when it came to the money paid out in error.

“We recognise that the business grants process was set up at pace during the strictest lockdown,” he said.

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