RPA to survive despite damning Defra report
THE Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is poorly run and unfit for purpose, a damning Defra review of the agency concluded today (Tuesday, July 20).
The review, published this morning, says the agency is currently ‘not fit’ to take on and deliver a new CAP payments system after 2013 without undergoing ‘significant changes’.
However, the review does not recommend that the RPA is scrapped as it says this would not produce a fit for purpose organisation any faster or at any lower cost to the public purse.
The Defra-commissioned review, led by David Lane, says that gaps in the agency’s financial controls, management information and governance are well below the acceptable minimum standards for a public sector organisation, especially one handling £2.3 billion of public money.
Mr Lane expressed surprise that the RPA had not taken remedial action before now given that its problems have been present for so long and reported on before.
His report adds that the review process was made unnecessarily difficult by the RPA leadership who resisted its commencement and took up a ‘considerable amount of time’ challenging its findings without providing any additional evidence.
RPA chief executive Tony Cooper resigned last week citing ‘personal reasons’. The RPA chief operations officer, Steve Pearce, and finance director Robin Moulson will also depart when their temporary contracts expire in the autumn.
Defra also came in for criticism for its failure to intervene and challenge the RPA despite clear signals it was was failing.
Farming Minister Jim Paice said: “There are some very tough messages for both Defra and RPA in the Review, and there are some tough decisions to be made.”
Mr Paice set out four priorities for action:
- Delivering improvements to customer service
- Aggressively pursuing efficiencies whilst balancing the need to provide a good service to farmers.
- Getting the basics like financial controls and accounts right.
- Making essential IT preparations for the new schemes which are likely to be introduced after the 2013 Common Agricultural Policy reform negotiations.
“I’m going to drive these improvements personally, by chairing RPA’s Oversight Board to oversee the agency’s operations and its preparations for 2013,” said Mr Paice.