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DEFRA loses tapes - and plot

Situation normal - usual staggering government incompetence

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It has been revealed that the UK's Rural Payments Agency (RPA) lost tapes five months ago which contained the payment details of more than 100,000 farmers in the UK. It told DEFRA and DEFRA told nobody else, certainly not the farmers.

DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ) is pointing the finger at IBM for losing the tapes, according to Farmers Weekly. What seems to have happened is that 39 backup tapes were transferred by the RPA to Newcastle from its Reading offices. The tapes then went missing. Thirty seven were found but two were not.DEFRA reckons that the tapes were simply placed on the wrong shelf by IBM staff, who actually operate the RPA data centre in Newcastle, although it seems that Accenture staff at Newcastle were involved as well.

The last definite record of the tapes' existence was in June last year. In May this year, IBM staff realised the tapes were missing and the RPA then told DEFRA.

Were the tapes encrypted? Don't be silly. Firstly, this is a UK government agency and, secondly, it is DEFRA, which marks it out as being more than usually incompetent. It's even tried the old scam-excuse of saying people would need specialised equipment to get data off the tapes - you know, like a tape drive and backup software, the sort of stuff that every tape-using IT shop has. Tsk, tsk, boys, pull the other one.

A DEFRA spokesperson suggests that it is likely that the lost tapes have been destroyed without anybody realising, a suggestion that hardly implies great procedural rigour in the department. Meanwhile, DEFRA has told IBM and Accenture to tighten up their procedures. The Farmers Weekly report contains a quote saying that DEFRA's top management is rotten to the core.

DEFRA is currently making a complete manure pile of the single payments system for farmers and this tape loss revelation will confirm farmers' views about DEFRA. Namely that it's a complete pile of poo so bad that they wouldn't even spread it on their fields. ®

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