MPs slam DEFRA's mismanagement of IT for farmers' CAP claims

27 March 2015

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee slams Defra for failing to listen to farmers' concerns over online-only CAP claims until EU deadlines were imminent. Welcoming the Rural Payments Agency's decision to allow farmers to use pen and paper systems instead, the  Committee's report published on Friday 27 March criticises the U turn for coming late in the day.

Rural Payments Agency

MPs are dismayed at the last minute decision by the Defra body, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), to pull the plug on online-only applications for farmers’ Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) claims.  Whilst welcoming the Agency’s common sense decision to allow farmers to use tried and tested pen and paper systems instead, the Committee slams Defra for failing to listen to the concerns of farmers until EU deadlines were imminent.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Miss Anne McIntosh MP said:

"We have long called for an alternative to online applications for farmers for payments under the new CAP system. IT systems have a key role to play but given the history of failure over implementing complex new government IT systems it was always a risk to rely entirely on an online process when implementing a complex new CAP scheme. Online-only applications pose difficulties too for the many farmers living in areas with inadequate broadband services."

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee today publishes CAP payments to farmers.  The report calls for Defra to ensure that the paper systems are put in place quickly and effectively so as not to jeopardise farmers’ incomes and to learn the lessons of this IT failure rapidly. Defra must provide full information on the costs of bringing the RPA’s computer system up to full functionality, including for mapping, as well as identifying who will foot the bill and any provisions to recover costs from external suppliers. 

Miss McIntosh added:

"Farmers have been warning for weeks that the RPA’s computer system for making applications was not performing adequately. Yet Defra’s Secretary of State, Elizabeth Truss, was adamant only two weeks before the RPA’s U-turn that there was no need for a contingency plan. She was either not fully informed by the RPA as to the extent of the problem or failed to be completely open at her 11 March Committee appearance."

Further information

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