The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Rural Payments Agency’s Single Payment Scheme uses a £350 million IT system to pay farmers the right amount in EU subsidies.
But the National Audit Office said in a recent report that the agency’s systems are "very expensive", "cumbersome", "difficult to change to keep up-to-date with new policies", and are "in danger of becoming obsolete".
Accenture has 100 contractors working full-time on the system, which is only 4 years old, and each one cost the taxpayer £200,000 in 2008/2009.
The cost of administering payments to farmers under the Single Payment Scheme is £1,743 per claim, which is more than six times higher than the cost in Scotland where it is £285 per claim.
The average farmer receives a payment of £2,567 per annum, so in many instances the cost of processing the claim is higher than the value of the claim itself.
Shortly thereafter it was disclosed that IBM had sent 39 back-up tapes containing confidential data belonging to any farmer who has ever claimed a single farm payment (over 100,000 individuals) from Reading to Accenture in Newcastle.
This unencrypted data was mislaid, and although most has been found 2 tapes are still unaccounted for.
You would have thought that in this day and age, either IBM should routinely insist upon encrypting any media before despatch, and/or Accenture should routinely insist upon not accepting unencrypted media.
What calibre of people are being employed at £200,000 per annum?