Greensill didn’t take ‘a lot of time’ – senior official
A senior official said he and the Chancellor had not spent much time assessing applications from now bankrupt finance company Greensill to be included in a Covid-19 loan program.
Charles Roxburgh, second permanent secretary to the treasury, also said he was aware of allegations of trouble at Greensill, but defended his nine meetings with his representatives.
“He (Chancellor Rishi Sunak) didn’t spend a lot of time on it, and I didn’t spend a lot of time on it, because I too was working on much longer and more intense situations in there. ‘era,’ he told members of the Special Treasury Committee.
Mr Roxburgh has met Greensill on several occasions at a time when the government was scrambling to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After a few meetings, the Treasury refused Greensill’s attempts to become part of the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) program.
Greensill then returned with a proposal on how the diet could be changed, which was again rescinded, before attempting, once again to no avail, to suggest another round of changes.
Mr Roxburgh said Greensill had been outspoken about the problems he was having in finding funding for some of his special-purpose vehicles, but that Greensill had not disclosed bigger issues with his main business to officials at the ‘time.
“We didn’t discuss whether its core business was in trouble… We knew about the funding issues.
“We had no information on a threat to the solvency of its core business.
“It happened much later,” he said.
Mr Roxburgh added: “There were reputation issues around Greensill, you can read the papers back then… but we have to talk to the companies even if they get bad press.”
When asked if officials had questioned Greensill more closely on these issues, he added: “We were aware of what we read in the press about Greensill, no other information that came to light. since.
Mr Roxburgh said the collapse would result in just over £ 8million in direct costs to the government, including taxes owed by Greensill, but he did not accept the cost of up to £ 5 billion that the former city minister, Lord Myners, felt the taxpayer could indirectly. be on the hook for.
‘I don’t know how Lord Myners came up with this figure, we don’t recognize it, you will have to ask Lord Myners how he got there,’ he told MPs.
The scrutiny of former Prime Minister David Cameron’s use of his relationship with the government to lobby for Greensill has come under scrutiny since the company’s bankruptcy in March of this year.
Earlier this month, Mr Cameron stressed that he was not aware of any financial difficulties at Greensill until December 2020, when he was informed that an attempt to raise funds was not forthcoming. was not going as well as hoped.
According to founder Lex Greensill, the carpet was ultimately pulled from under the company when its largest insurer, Tokio Marine, refused to renew its policies with Greensill.
Greensill provided what is known as supply chain finance to businesses, which means the finance company would pay a company’s bill immediately after it was sent, eliminating the usual delay that can restrict flows. business cash flow.
MPs focused much of their questions on the time that had been taken out of senior officials’ schedules to assess Greensill’s proposals and asked if that much time would have passed had a former prime minister not made the request.
Senior lawyer Nigel Boardman has been commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to look into the use of supply chain finance in government.