Feeds

Farmers face subsidy error fall-out

Report finds processing costs out of control

Mobile application security vulnerability report

The cost of processing each single farm payment has often exceeded the claim's value, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

In a report published on 15 July 2008, the House of Commons committee says that continuing problems with the Single Payment Scheme IT system have racked up high processing costs, as well as damaging the Rural Payments Agency's ability to provide farmers with information and to process their claims.

The committee found that claims cost about £750 each to process and in many cases exceeded the value of the claims. It says that cutting costs depends on greater automation in processing small, standard claims, as well as reducing staff costs through a reduction in overtime and shift working.

The scheme was introduced by the European Union in 2005 to replace 11 separate crop and livestock production subsidies. But in the first two years nearly 20,000 farmers received incorrect payments and overpayments reached £37m.

"Restoring farmers' confidence will depend on the agency's improving its business processes and IT systems to the point where it can process claims efficiently and promptly and tell farmers when they are likely to be paid," said the committee's chair, Edward Leigh.

He also warned that the agency's failure to implement the scheme properly could lead a fine of hundreds of millions of pounds from the European Commission.

The report says that the IT system had been "rigid and task based" and not suitable for processing farmers' claims. It says that implementation was rushed, leaving staff poorly equipped to process claims or deal with farmer's queries about the progress of their claims.

Modifications to IT systems have added to the overall cost of the Single Payment Scheme, which reached £258m in May 2006. The committee says that in 2007-08 a further £22.8m was spent on IT changes, with millions more planned.

Between January 2003 and March 2008 the agency's contractor Accenture was paid some £122m for IT support and development. Although the agency had planned to spend about £20m with the company over the next two financial years, new contract arrangements mean that Accenture will carry a share of the financial risk if it fails to deliver.

Two other EU member states, Finland and Germany, had implemented the same scheme by "taking a more measured approach over a longer period of time," the report says, adding that UK ministers had underestimated the difficulty of implementing the scheme.

"Policy papers for ministers did not highlight all the risks of implementing this complex scheme against such a tight deadline," said Leigh. "Defra should check its processes for examining and challenging the assumptions in its policy proposals."

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.

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.