DEFRA and the RPA have been responsible for significant losses to the taxpayer, a review of their accounts has found.
The National Audit Office, the government’s spending watchdog, was forced to audit the two sets of accounts because of fines handed down by the European Commission.
Breaking rules over administering farm subsidies during 2009/2010 resulted in fines amounting to £160m, while problems with the administration of the Single Payment Scheme in England in 2005, 2006 and 2007 led to penalties worth £132m.
DEFRA’s accounts also included provision for a further £220m in penalties, including £171 million for the Single Payment Scheme in England in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The NAO said penalties had been incurred as a direct result of weaknesses in the management and administration of the RPA, particularly for the early years of the SPS.
“The RPA continues to experience considerable difficulties in quantifying the value of overpayments and underpayments made to farmers under the Single Payment Scheme,” it added.
Amyas Morse, NAO head, said the audit had to be carried out as DEFRA and the RPA had spent money on a use not intended by Parliament.
“The values concerned are very considerable, meaning that there has been significant loss to the taxpayer,” he added.