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Call For MSPs to Challenge Officials on CAP IT Failure

NFU Scotland has urged MSPs to use the opportunity to challenge Scottish Government officials over the flawed delivery of CAP support in 2015, and to seek assurances on what is being done to deliver 2016 payments.

The Union also urges MSPs to establish whether the IT system will ever be fit for purpose and be capable of delivering payments accurately and on time in the future.

The Union’s call comes ahead of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee taking evidence tomorrow (Thursday 29 September) on Scottish Government’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Futures programme – the IT programme that has failed in its delivery of CAP payments to farmers and crofters.

The Union has urged committee members to consider the following when questioning Scottish Government officials responsible for the CAP futures programme.

  • Is Scottish Government in a position to provide clarification on how fixes to the IT system are progressing in order to deliver outstanding 2015 payments to farmers and crofters?
  • Will Scottish Government outline a timeframe when official notifications will be issued to all businesses that have received payment for 2015, informing them what they have been paid and how that payment has been calculated?
  • Can the Scottish Government be confident that the CAP Futures programme will ever be capable of delivering payments to an acceptable standard?
  • Under what circumstances will businesses not receive a payment from the 2016 national loan scheme, announced last week? Will Scottish Government communicate with those ineligible for the 2016 national loan payment the reasons why, and what measures will be put in place to support them?
  • Will Scottish Government establish a clear protocol for the delivery of balance payments for the 2016 payment run and beyond?

NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “Deep flaws within the CAP futures programme, and its inability to accurately deliver 2015 support payments in a timely manner, placed the whole rural economy in jeopardy last spring.

“Audit Scotland has questioned whether the CAP futures programme will ever be fit for purpose and this evidence session provides MSPs with an opportunity to drill down on the reasons for that failure and for key Scottish Government officials to identify what is being done to rectify the failings.

“The blunt truth is that, as we near the end of September, there are almost 700 farmers and crofters who have yet to receive some or all of their 2015 basic payments.  Combined with balance payments outstanding from other schemes, that means tens of millions of pounds are still missing from the Scottish economy and the flawed IT system is primarily to blame.

“It is totally unacceptable that technical glitches still hinder the ability of officials to give an unambiguous reason to claimants as to why they have not been paid, as well as a clear timetable for when their payment will be received.

“In addition to this, many businesses that have received a payment in full or in part for 2015 schemes are yet to receive an official statement confirming how their payment has been calculated and what schemes each payment relates to.  That is vital for tax and accounting purposes and Scottish Government must give a date as to when these notifications will be issued.

“Last week, Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing announced that there is to be a national loan scheme launched shortly which will provide a very welcome tranche of funding into the rural economy in November – a move welcomed by NFUS.  This nationally-funded scheme will inject around £300 million into the rural economy following an extended period of stagnation as a result of low commodity prices across the board as well as the delay in 2015 payments.

“However, it must be acknowledged that this measure, however welcome, is an admission that the IT system is still incapable of delivering CAP funds in a timely and effective manner for the 2016 payment run.  This evidence session provides an opportunity for MSPs to identify what is being done to address that.

“NFUS understands that of around 18,300 businesses eligible to receive CAP support, 17,000 will receive a letter from Scottish Government this week inviting them to opt in to the 2016 national loan scheme.

“It is imperative that Scottish Government urgently communicates to the 1300 businesses who are not being offered loans why they are not being included in the national scheme and what measures will be put in place to support them.

“If this is the same group of businesses yet to be supported from 2015 arrangements then it is unacceptable that they should be punished financially again when the inability of the IT system to properly process their claims is at the heart of the problem.

“Looking beyond the stop-gap provided by the national loan scheme, NFUS also urges Scottish Government to establish and announce at the earliest opportunity a clear protocol for the delivery of balance payments for the 2016 payment run and beyond.  

“If the delay in payments and IT problems are to be a chronic fixture in the future, then claimants must be updated on a regular basis on how any fixes are progressing and ultimately when they can realistically expect to receive payment.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006
 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 225/16


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