Feeds

MPs slam Defra over rural payments system

'A master class in bad decision making'

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Rushed testing of IT and poor management led to the failure of the single payments scheme for farmers, says a parliamentary report.

The chair of the House of Commons' public accounts committee, Edward Leigh, has condemned the government for its failure to implement the single payments scheme to farmers effectively.

Leigh said that the implementation of the scheme was "a master class in bad decision making, poor planning, incomplete testing of IT systems, confused lines of responsibility and a failure by the management team to face up to the unfolding crisis."

A report by the committee, published on 6 September 2007, found that only 15 per cent of payments had been made by 31 March 2006, and some 3,000 farmers were still unpaid at the end of October 2006. The payment delays caused stress, anxiety and financial hardship in the farming sector.

In March 2006 the Rural Payment's Agency's then chief executive was removed from his post, but was retained on full pay while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) determined his terms of departure.

More than £120m was spent by Defra and its agency on implementing the EU land area-based single payment scheme, which replaced production-based Common Agricultural Policy subsidies.

The single payment scheme was not a large grant scheme, but Defra's choice to implement a complex option in the shortest possible timescale of one year was unmanageable, says the report.

In their haste to have the scheme ready on time, Defra and the agency did not follow the basic principles of project implementation, according to the findings. This included putting in place adequate pilot testing and the development of systems to extract management information necessary to monitor progress.

"Given the history of implementing government IT programmes, and in view of the wider changes being attempted, it would have been more sensible to trial the scheme in the first year and implement fully in year two," the report says.

The risks were compounded by the requirement for digitised mapping of land in England, which Scotland and Wales already had in place.

Defra implemented the scheme as part of a wider business change programme to rationalise systems and reduce the staff headcount by 1,800. But the change programme had cost £258m by the end of March 2006 and is expected to achieve efficiency savings of only £7.5m by March 2009.

Furthermore, the committee found that because the Rural Payments Agency shed too many of its experienced staff at a time when it needed them most, it then spent some £143m on agency staff to process claims.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents staff at the agency, said: "Vital knowledge and experience was lost as jobs were cut in a race to meet so called government efficiency targets.

"The experience of the Rural Payments Agency illustrates the disastrous consequences of relying on new vastly complex IT systems in the hope that jobs can be cut with no impact on service delivery."

He called on the government to learn the lessons of this report and fundamentally reassess its job cuts agenda across the whole civil service.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.