RPA faces challenges to meet payment targets

If the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is to continue its improved performance in 2013-14 it will need to do so with fewer resources, according to its chief executive.

In the RPA’s Business Plan 2013-14, published on Tuesday (2 July), the agency promises to “consolidate” its achievements in the last financial year and “build on its widely recognised improved performance while delivering further important changes”.

The plan sets out how the RPA will be working to the following ministerial, customer and taxpayer commitments:

• Single Payment Scheme: 93% of customers and 86% of value by the end of December 2013; 97% of customers and 97% of value by the end of March 2014

• Timely payments of applications to the trader schemes: 98% of fruit and vegetable producer organisations to be paid within 100 calendar days; 96% of other schemes within 28 calendar days and 99% of other schemes within 60 calendar days

• Rural Development Programme for England scheme payments: 98% within five working days of request

• Accurate payments: 99% of payments made to be accurate first time, measured against financial value

• Cattle in Great Britain: record at least 96% of notified births, deaths and movements to be entered on to the system within five working days of receipt.

Commenting on the plan, RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw said: “Our goal of continued improvement must be realised with fewer resources.

“Key 2013-14 projects within our Strategic Improvement Plan will include changes to improve our approach and accuracy across dual use and intentional over-declaration issues, and to introduce proactive land change detection capability.

“This will place additional demand on our resources while operating in an environment of continued savings across central government departments.”

Mr Grimshaw added that he was proud of what the RPA achieved in the last financial year, adding that the executive agency had “met or achieved all of its targets”.

The agency passed its EU prescribed single farm payment target five weeks early, paying 97% of farmers by 31 March.

The RPA met its March target on 15 February, paying 98.4% of farmers and 97.2% of estimated fund value. By the end of March it had paid 99.3% of applicants and 99.5% of the fund value.

“These successes have shown the agency to be a trusted and value-for-money delivery organisation that is supporting farmers, producers and the rural economy,” said Mr Grimshaw.

“Although last year we exceeded some of our indicators for the year ahead, they are nonetheless challenging targets as we strive to ensure that the agency is in the best possible shape for the forthcoming common agriculture policy (CAP) reform while achieving improved value for the taxpayer.”

According to the RPA, customer satisfaction ratings have improved year on year. On a scale of one to 10, customer satisfaction was measured at 8.7 in the third quarter of the 2012-13 financial year. The rating increased from 7.1 in 2011 and 7.5 in 2012.

For 2013/14, the agency will work towards achieving an average customer satisfaction score of 8/10 across the year.

During 2012-13, the RPA launched a five-year plan, delivering 11 of its 45 improvement projects, stabilising the agency through introducing new people, governance and processes, and taking significant steps towards achieving our core objectives.

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