Troubled RPA systems to be replaced by 2015

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is to roll out a new payments system for the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) by 2015

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will roll out a new payments system for the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) by 2015 to connect with Natural England and the Forestry Commission.

The system will replace the troubled £350m single payment scheme. The National Audit Office had previously found that the complexity of the IT in the current system had led to the department spending £1,743 on administering claims, compared with just £285 in Scotland.

Defra is inviting potential suppliers to a market sounding event to discuss systems that will accommodate the European Union’s legislative changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), coming into place in 2014.

David Lane, interim programme director at the RPA, said the new system will have built-in flexibility for future EU policy and rule changes. “We recognise the rules can’t be hard coded in as they change annually," he said.

“We are looking at something that can support the farmers through the RPA, but also the same farmers through Natural England and the Forestry Commission, using a single payment [system] for the same requirements,” he said.

Lane said the body will seek to reuse legacy systems where possible, but added it was unlikely that much of the current RPA system would be reused: “I doubt there is anything in the [current] RPA system that will be of much use, but I will keep an open mind.”

The body hopes to release a tender notice by January 2013, award contracts by October the same year, and have a new system in place by spring 2015.

He said the mistakes of the previous system were due to not talking to the market enough and allowing enough time for the procurement. “Last time, we didn’t engage the market enough, so now we are front-loading the discussion with the market," he said.

Requirements for administering the new CAP schemes are being developed for Defra by the Future Options Programme (FOP). The sounding event will take place later this month in Reading.

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