MPs have demanded that a “root and branch” review of the Rural Payments Agency should include an examination of its IT system and the role of outsourcer Accenture.
The call came as the government announced it would pay interest to farmers still waiting for payments.
More than 21,000 farmers are still waiting for money under the single payments scheme – the subsidy introduced in a shake-up of the common agricultural policy – environment secretary David Miliband told Parliament last week.
Although some had received partial payments, 2,300 farmers had still received nothing at all.
Last month, IT services outsourcer Accenture – which put in the RPA’s Rita payments system – denied it was responsible for the agency’s failure to pay more than half of the £1.5bn SPS subsidies owed by the April deadline.
But Labour MP David Taylor, one of the co-rapporteurs on the Environment Food and Rural Affairs select ccommittee, asked Miliband whether a forthcoming review of the RPA would include “an assessment of the success or otherwise of the specification, design, development, implementation and operation of the information and communications technology system”.
He added, “Will the review also consider the role of Accenture – a company whose performance has been patchy, to put it kindly – and that of the Office of Government Commerce, whose purpose is supposed to be to advise government on these matters?”
The environment secretary said those conducting the review would “seek to learn all possible lessons from this year’s difficulties”.
Miliband told MPs last week that 90% of the total fund had now been paid out, but added that he had authorised the RPA to make interest payments at the London Interbank offered rate plus 1%, calculated from 1 July, “in respect of any payments where responsibility for the delay rests with the RPA”.