Published: Friday, December 18, 2009
Defra Just Does not understand the Principle of Maladministration
Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has called on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to apologise and pay compensation for the maladministration of the Single Payments Scheme (SPS).
In a report laid before Parliament entitled: Cold Comfort: the Administration of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme by the Rural Payments Agency.
Problems with the 2005 Single Payment Scheme have been in the public domain for some time.
What the Ombudsman's report adds now are her findings of what happened to individuals who sustained an injustice due to RPA's mistakes.
The report sets out the results of the Ombudsman's investigation of 2 representative complaints about the administration of the 2005 SPS by the RPA, part of Defra.
These 2 complaints are representative of 22 other complaints made about the 2005 Single Payment Scheme in England.
In the report Ms Abraham says:
'These failures of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme took a direct personal and financial toll on the two farmers whose complaints I have investigated.
My report shows that the RPA was unable to keep its timetable for handling the digital mapping of land or for making payments to farmers. But RPA continued to tell farmers that it would keeps its payment timetable, when it knew, or should have known, that the timetable was increasingly unrealistic.
In the language of the Ombudsman's Principles RPA failed to get it right, to be customer focused, or to be open and accountable....'
The reader of this report will see that the remedies I have recommended are modest, particularly set against the overall cost of the Single Payment Scheme. But my recommendations go beyond what Defra believes is appropriate.
Important principles are at stake here. My view is that an appropriate remedy should be forthcoming where injustice has been suffered as a consequence of maladministration by a public body’.
In 2005 the SPS based on land area replaced the previous production-based system of farm subsidy within the European Union. Farmers in England receive about £1.6bn a year under the Scheme.
The National Audit Office has issued three reports on the SPS in October 2006, December 2007 and October 2009.
The first report by the NAO on the SPS (October 2006) included research that revealed, among other things, that delayed payments had been a source of increased stress for 20% of the farmers surveyed.
The management of the Single Payments Scheme was reviewed by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts.
The Ombudsman welcomes the Public Administration Select Committee's (PASC) December 2009 report Parliament and the Ombudsman.
In their report PASC draw attention to the constitutional issues when the Ombudsman takes the exceptional step of issuing a report indicating that the Government is failing to take steps to remedy injustice she has found it has caused.
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