Last week Defra body the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) was forced to abandon an online only system for the Basic Payment Scheme and allow farmers to use a more traditional pen and paper forms methods after “performance problems.”
While the Efra committee welcomes the decision to remove the online only aspect of the process, it believes the move was too little too late.
“We have long called for an alternative to online application for farmers for payments under the new CAP system,” claimed Committee chair Anne McIntosh.
“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 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) scheme.
“Online only applications pose difficulties too for the many farmers living in areas with inadequate broadband services,” McIntosh added.
The Efra Committee has urged Defra and the RPA to ensure it puts paper system in place quickly and effectively so famers’ incomes are not jeopardised.
It has also said the Department must learn quickly the lessons from this IT failure and provide full information on the costs bring the RPA computer system up to full functionality.
Defra is also expected to identify who will foot the bill and any provisions to recover costs from external suppliers.
“Farmers have been warning for weeks that the RPA’s computer system for making applications was not performing adequately,” claimed McIntosh.
“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 11th March Committee appearance,” she added.