RPA staff benefit from £1.8m performances bonuses

RURAL Payments Agency staff have received bonuses worth £1.8 million over the past five years, despite the agency’s mishandling of the Single Payment Scheme in England.

Bonuses totalling at least £250,000 have been paid out to RPA staff each year since 2004/5, with £558,943 paid out in 2008/9 alone, it has emerged.

An RPA spokesperson said the performance payments were made to staff working on all aspects of the agency’s work, which includes making payments for 60 CAP schemes plus 30 schemes delivered by other organisations, carrying out inspections and operating the British Cattle Movement Service.

“RPA made these performance payments to a range of individuals, from processing staff to managers based on achievement and following the end of year individual performance reviews,” she said.

But the payments were criticised by Opposition MPs. Conservative shadow agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: “It is hard to believe that while farmers were left waiting for their Single Farm Payment the RPA was shelling out millions in bonuses. It says it all about the Government’s priorities.”

Liberal Democrat Shadow Defra Secretary said the ‘extravagant payments’ could not be justified.

The agency has been heavily criticised for its handling of the SPS. A recent report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee condemned the ‘poor leadership’ within the agency and noted that the SPS, and particularly the RPA’s IT system, was still beset with problems, despite the recent improvement in the delivery of payments.

It questioned the justification of the £11,000 bonus paid to RPA chief executive Tony Cooper in 2008/9.

A response by Defra to written question in Parliament this week revealed that the total RPA’s wages/salary budget for 2009-10 is £99.3 million, of which performance payments represents an estimated 0.5 per cent.

That compared with a budget for ‘core Defra’, including Animal Health, Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Marine and Fisheries Agency, of £200.25m.

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