A Parliamentary committee has criticised the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for the way it managed the 2015 Basic Payment scheme disbursements, and has warned that the payment delays seen this year must not be repeated.
The cross Party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s report, Common Agricultural Policy and payment delays, concedes that the Agency was faced with implementing a new EU payment regime in 2015. While this “created a particularly large challenge” for the RPA in making accurate and timely payments in 2015-16, the delays experienced caused and continue to cause significant financial hardship and anxiety to some claimants.
“The RPA met its December and January targets by the barest margins,” notes the report. “It missed its March target. This is unacceptable.”
The report continues that neither Defra nor the RPA should continue to use CAP complexity as an on-going excuse or justification for payment delays; Defra must ensure that the RPA’s system returns to 2014 performance levels and pays the majority of claims by volume on the first banking day of December, with at least 90% of total claims paid by end December 2016 and a clear timescale for the remaining 10%.
The EFRA inquiry follows a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee in March this year which blamed the latest delays on dysfunctional behaviour between Defra, the RPA and the Governments Digital Service , which it estimates could cost the UK £180m annually in non compliance penalties.