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Farm minister admits further RPA bungling

PUBLISHED: 11:06 05 March 2011

Farm minister Jim Paice told MPs yesterday of the Rural Payments Agency's latest failure to pay 95pc of claim by the end of March.

He became the latest in a long line of ministers to admit failure to make promised payments by the deadline. And he indicated that the RPA will start making manual payments in an attempt to clear the backlog.

Mr Paice, who is chairman of the RPA’s oversight board and has made much of his determination to take personal charge, said: “I regret to inform the House that the RPA will not achieve the target of paying 95pc of claims by value by March 31. The estimated figure is nearer to 90pc.

“We are, therefore, looking at the possibility of making manually validated payments to those who would otherwise be unlikely to be paid on the system before June 30.”

The south-east Cambridgeshire MP said that the first target of paying more than 85pc of eligible claimants was met by December 31. It was actually 85.5pc. The second target was to pay 95pc of the total value of eligible payments by March 31.

Mr Paice, added: “Given the complexity of the existing systems and the inadequacy of the IT systems, speeding up payments is not simply a matter of increasing resources.

“In the last six months some 140 ‘fixes’ have been made to the IT system which now allows us to be more confident in the accuracy, but does not significantly speed up the process,” he added.

“I am very conscious that for many if not all farmers the potential delays could involve considerable hardship or costs. We already make manual payments to hardship cases.”

“However if the RPA is finally to put the legacy of chaos, errors and disallowances behind it we need to ensure that payments made this year are based on accurate data so that we can move forward,” said Mr Paice.

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