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.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Merge the RPA with the Land registry and put the Land registry in charge.

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  • I presume after making a mess of it all Tony Cooper will retire on a nice fat pension paid for by the rest of us. Nothing changes.

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  • Yeah, good idea Mark. Because the Land Registry and RPA have so much in common. Don't they. Not? Yada yada. Let's attack the RPA again.

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  • It is a damnable disgrace that Mr Cooper is being allowed to leave with favourable terms and conditions. Both the NFU and the Government should step in and make sure he gets exactly what he has given to his staff and the farming community. Absolutely Nothing.

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  • extract from report
    "It would be fair to say that based on the evidence made available to the
    Review by RPA, the Review team do not believe that the current leadership as
    it is currently constituted or performing has demonstrated a capability for
    developing, delivering and embedding the necessary improvements in RPA or
    ability to adequately prepare for CAP 2013"

    That's one hell of a "personal reason" .

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  • I actually cannot blame Tony cooper for any of this. He arrived to bad situation and has made some improvements.... Margaret Beckett is the one who should have paid years ago...its all down to her and her original decisions that leave RPA in this way!
    it just shows the knowledge of some of the poeple commenting here.... dont you just hate it when people think it is as easy as just merging RPA and land registry ....mark....dont comment on things that you have absolutly no knowledge of!!!!??

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  • 'That's one hell of a "personal reason" .'

    Yes, it's all becoming clear now why Tony Cooper is 'off'. It's clear the RPA senior management were not very co-operative during the review and in fact tried to block some evidence.
    Is it just me or don't others consider this to be totally unacceptable for civil servants to behave in this manner?
    It would make a lot of sense for DEFRA to sack all the senior managers and get in some quality managers to sort it out, I don't believe the ground staff are to blame for this fiasco, they are just badly led.


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  • The RPA do need attacking as they have been absolutely rubbish for a seriously long amount of time. If everyone ran their operations in the same way then the country would be even more broke than we are already and even more people would be out of work.

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  • Quote" It's clear the RPA senior management were not very co-operative during the review and in fact tried to block some evidence. Is it just me or don't others consider this to be totally unacceptable for civil servants to behave in this manner?"

    Fact is that most of them are management consultants Tony brought with him or personally appointed. And if it's not them running things badly it's the IT contractors leading them by the nose.

    Another fact, there was no millions in dissalowance, 300m IT overspends or millions in overpayments when Civil Servants managed the equally complex pre SPS schemes and did the IT in house.

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  • again the people on the shop floor get the rough deal its all this people in charge who have never really worked or mix with ther staff or us farmers to hear where things are right and wrong instead of employinf ther frinds lets get some common poeple in charge who actually understad pounds and pence instead of big ideas and flouncy words

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