Ombudsman to investigate Single Payment Scheme fiasco

The independent watchdog that oversees government departments will next month meet senior officials from the Rural Payment Agency to discuss the agency’s handling of the Single Payment Scheme.

Twenty-two farmers are known to have submitted evidence to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s office in recent months, in response to the late payment shambles. Ten cases are currently under investigation, and another 12 being considered.

The office exists to look into complaints of injustice resulting from the maladministration of public bodies such as the RPA.

While ombudsman Ann Abraham does not have the power to force a public body to pay compensation for the suffering caused by a public body, she can recommend that compensation is paid.

An RPA spokesman said: “The ombudsman wishes to explore a number of points and would like to gain a better understanding of our processes for resolving customer issues from the first year of implementing the SPS.”

Julie Robinson, NFU chief legal adviser, added: “It is good to hear that these cases haven’t disappeared into an abyss. I also understand there have been some high level discussions between the RPA and the ombudsman to determine the principles of redress that will apply to maladministration of the SPS.”