The national financial watchdog has renewed calls for closer inspections of public funds paid to companies hit by government restrictions during the Covid pandemic.
In its latest report, the Federal Audit OfficeExternal link said it noted “a high number” of cases of suspected fraud or inaccurate data.
Nearly 35,000 companies handed in about 52,000 requests for financial assistance by the end of last November. The total amount paid out as part of “hardship cases” comes to more than CHF5 billion ($5.4 billion), the office said on Monday.
Possible wrongdoing includes providing erroneous information about the business activities of a company, the payment of dividends to shareholders or claiming excessive financial benefits.
The office also examined the payout of short-time working compensation. Under this scheme, more than CHF14 billion was granted to some 160,000 companies between March 2020 and December 2021.
Under another scheme, the government also offered loan guarantees which led to losses of CHF324 million by the end of last year.
There were more than 5,800 cases of suspected irregularities where authorities demanded adjustments or reported a criminal offence.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs which oversaw the compensation payments downplayed the findings of the audit office.
Three financial pillars, also including a loss-of-earnings scheme, were set up last year to soften the impact of government restrictions imposed to contain the spread of Covid. The audit office monitors the payments and reports on a regular basis.
In compliance with the JTI standards