The man drafted in by the government to sort out the single farm payment fiasco has told MPs that DEFRA and the Rural Payments Agency bit off more than “could be successfully chewed”.
Mark Addison, who has now retired from the civil service, told the environment, food and rural affairs select committee on Wednesday (28 June) that the agency had struggled because it was asked to deliver three key programmes simultaneously.
It had tried to restructure the RPA at the same time as making system changes to accommodate CAP reform and implementing the Rural Land Register, he said.
“While impossible to estimate the risk that a project of this size might incur, it should have been obvious that more was being bitten off than could be successfully chewed.”
Mr Addison went onto to say that problems with the validation process were so complex that parts of the agency’s software would need rewriting and it could be as long as two years before the system was properly fixed.
The RPA will find out at the end of tomorrow (30 June) whether it has met the EU deadline of making 96.14% of all single farm payment claims by 30 June.
As Farmers Weekly went to press, the agency was reporting that it had paid out 94.3% of the total fund and claimed more money was likely to go out, in the form of partial payments, before the end of the week.
An RPA spokesman said by the close of play on Tuesday, 27 June.
105,586 customers had been paid a total of £1.415 billion.
But he also admitted that there were still about 1500 commercial farmers waiting for either a full of partial single farm payment.
In addition about 16,800 individuals were waiting for a top-up payment.
DEFRA has confirmed that farmers who are still owed money after 30 June, will receive interest, but it is not yet clear what penalties the RPA will face if it does miss the deadline.