AT least £22 billion of overdue debt was owed to the Government for reasons including unpaid taxes, fines and benefit overpayments but officials have not got to grips with the problem, a spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said £6bn was lost in 2012-13 due to debt being written off or not being pursued on value-for-money grounds.

More than £32bn had been lost since 2008-9, according to Government accounts, and departments allowed debt to go uncollected for too long, the NAO said.

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The Government does not produce an official figure for how much it is owed by debtors, but the NAO estimated it was at least £22bn last March.

The level of debt owed to the Exchequer meant the Government had to borrow more, the NAO said.

HM Revenue and Customs was owed £15.1bn, with the bulk of the remainder owed to the Department For Work And Pensions and Ministry Of Justice.

The NAO report said nearly 70% of the losses were due to insolvencies.