A recent Holyrood Public Audit Committee hearing has heard that there is “significant” risk to the Scottish Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Futures programme.
The CAP project will see a new IT system make payments to farmers, crofters and land users in Scotland from this year onwards under new EU policy.
However, concern about the programme has arisen after a document was published claiming that there will be significant risk in the project “right up until implementation and beyond.”
According the Audit Committee hearing, business case costs have increased from £102.5m to £178m, a 74% rise.
The largest area of spend is on the IT delivery partner, where costs have risen from £28.8m to £60.4m, a 111% increase.
The Public Audit Committee has also expressed concern that there has not been enough progress on key parts of the process, affecting those need to use the IT system.
While users have the option to complete application forms on paper, they are being encouraged to do so online which means farmers need to have access to broadband, which is often not the case.
SMPs on the Committee also said that the process used to take an hour or so to complete but it now takes at least three hours.
“Government has a poor record when it comes to computers. The new IT system is 111% over budget. Crofters, not in the midst of lambing, are having to cope with a cumbersome and very slow online application process for their agricultural claims,” claimed Tavish Scott, SMP and member of the Holyrood Committee.
“Even if a crofter is lucky to have superfast broadband and not many do across Shetland, it makes no difference. Government are spending £180m on a computer that does not appear to work efficiently for the very people who need it to be efficient.
“Audit Scotland say that the implementation of the new super government computer carries significant risk. Agricultural payments to crofters which normally arrive in December may be delayed,” he added, as well as urging users who have used the paper form in the past to do so again to avoid IT problems delaying their payments.