19 July 2002

DEFRA report riddled with errors

AN influential group of MPs has criticised a DEFRA report on its annual departmental expenditure and activities as being riddled with inaccuracies.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee said the document contained serious omissions.

"We are thoroughly dissatisfied with the departments annual report," said committee chairman David Curry. The report is an important document if the department is to be accountable for its expenditure and its activities.

"The problem is that there are serious omissions and it is riddled with inaccuracies. It also contains too many warm words and vague aspirations, and too few real figures against which its performance can be measured.

"The figures must be accompanied by clear notes which enable them to be fully understood."

Mr Curry said next years departmental report must be much better and informed by consistent and transparent rules from the Treasury about statistics.

"But we are also concerned about administration in the department. It faces many challenges, not least of which is the need to bring together its component parts to form a department with a single sense of identity and purpose."

Mr Curry suggested the department should develop a coherent IT strategy. "There is evidence of difficulties such as the high rates of staff turnover.

"We are not yet confident that current management – no matter how enthusiastic and committed – is capable of meeting the challenges the department faces."

"We expect to see real improvements during the next 12 months." &#42