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DEFRA Single Payment Scheme shows poor value for money

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?

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Comments: (1)

Paul Penrose
Paul Penrose - Finextra - London 11 November, 2009, 17:06Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Accenture have asked that we post the following response:

The article said ‘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.’ This is inaccurate.

In keeping with the terms of our contract, the RPA does not pay Accenture for services delivered by individuals but rather for outcomes delivered. This was accurately reported by the NAO in its  2007report.  Accenture’s rates are market relevant, competitive and were agreed to by the RPA.

In relation to the section in the article referring to data being mislaid I would like to offer the following context:

·         Accenture does not store, maintain or track DEFRA or RPA’s production data back-up tapes.  Backup tapes are written and stored only at IBM’s secure data centre in Reading.  Management of the data centre and all of its processes are the sole responsibility of IBM.

·         Of the tapes that were originally identified as missing, Accenture was able to provide records that helped determine that several of the tapes were in IBM’s possession. IBM’s own 2008 inventory determined that it was in physical possession of the two tapes in question. Their 2009 inventory check determined the two tapes were missing from the IBM data centre.

·         Most important of all, there is no evidence that indicates Accenture ever had physical possession of the two remaining missing tapes.  According to Accenture’s records we last accessed the missing tapes remotely in 2006.

·         All RPA Information Technology Application (RITA) back-up tapes that were transferred from the IBM data centre to Accenture’s development centre in Newcastle have been accounted for in the standard course of business.  While in Accenture’s possession all RITA tapes are kept in a locked data safe.

This debate is now concluded.

Keith Appleyard

Keith Appleyard

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