Early review of the CAP Delivery Programme

Early review of the CAP Delivery Programme

Ineffective collaboration between the bodies responsible for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Delivery Programme undermined their ability to deliver a successful rural payments service, the National Audit Office’s (NAO) early review has said. 

The Programme is a combined effort between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rural Payments Agency, Government Digital Service (GDS) and other bodies to develop new systems and processes to support the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy in England.

The report suggests that the programme has been set back by numerous changes in leadership causing disruption and uncertainty for staff. According to NAO, the Department also failed to prevent counter-productive behaviours, with deep rifts in working relationships and inappropriate behaviour at senior leadership level at many stages of the programme’s three-year history.

The report goes on to claim that GDS did not provide the support the Department believed it needed to adapt to the changes during the spend control process. While GDS committed to reducing the overall programme costs, improving the delivery confidence of the programme and building the Department’s digital capability, its support was reported to be patchy and with limited continuity in personnel.

Moreover, the Department had expected applicants to be able to register using the government’s identity assurance system, Verify, from October 2014. However, although the Verify team had advised the Department that they would need to make alternative means available to access the service – as Verify would not be sufficiently ready for widespread use by farmers at that point – no alternative was initially put in place.

In March 2015, in response to serious failings of the system, the online application system was withdrawn and replaced by ‘paper-assisted’ digital application for the 2015 scheme. As a result it is likely that the majority of farmers will receive their basic payment scheme (BPS) payments in December.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The Department, the Rural Payments Agency and Government Digital Service have not worked together effectively to deliver the Common Agricultural Policy Delivery Programme. There are serious lessons in this episode for all three.

“This means that costs have increased and systems functionality has not improved at the rate expected, either in the back office or the user-facing front end. This does not represent value for money at this stage.”

Morse continued: “One consequence of this is that the Department faces difficulties paying farmers accurately and at the earliest opportunity. While the Department is now making progress towards its target of paying BPS claims for the majority of farmers in December, significant challenges remain for the Programme.”

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