Healthcare subsidy scheme halted amid €11m fraud investigation

Showing support for care workers in Amsterdam. Photo: D Nicholls Lee
Photo: D Nicholls Lee

A scheme to subsidise support jobs in the healthcare sector and free up nursing staff for coronavirus care duties has been put on hold because of suspected fraud – and as much as €11m may have been stolen.

Medical care minister Conny Helder has told MPs in a briefing that it would appear at least €2.9m has been moved from the Netherlands to foreign bank accounts and that government inspectors are now investigating.

Inspectors alerted the minister to the possible fraud with the Cozo scheme last week. In 2021, almost €84m was allocated to 513 different healthcare providers to support 7,342 jobs and the scheme was due to continue until the end of June.

The inspectors suspect 25 companies have transferred the cash to foreign bank accounts and that some of the money has been transferred back to Dutch bank accounts owned by private individuals with ‘a foreign nationality or name’.

A further seven companies allied to the 25 are also under investigation.

In total, 28 of the 32 companies had fewer workers on the payroll than they had asked subsidy for, while nine had never paid any taxes and premiums and seven were sole traders.

In total, the amount embezzled could be as much as €11m, the inspectors said.

Earlier fraud

The health ministry admitted in December that some healthcare companies had committed fraud by wrongly claiming bonuses for workers who were not on their books, or by pocketing the money themselves.

That problem was particularly acute in companies which provide home nursing or youth care, RTL said at the time.

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