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Farron blasts Rural Payments Agency as ‘a disaster’ after critical report released

July 25, 2011 1:52 PM

TF ruralSouth Lakes MP Tim Farron has today blasted the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) as 'a disaster' after a National Audit Office (NAO) report was released that said that it was still wasting taxpayers' money.

Defra's accounts had to be 'qualified' because of European Commission penalties totalling £175m. The big fines were because DEFRA and the Rural Payments Agency had not applied regulations correctly in the processing of schemes, including the rural development programme for England 2007 and 2008.

The report said: "Total disallowance penalties paid and payable by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are now in excess of £0.5 billion."

The National Audit Office in their report spoke of a "significant loss to the taxpayer" because of the weak administration of the single payment scheme by the Rural Payments Agency.

The agency had not been able to make an accurate assessment of the value of overpayments and underpayments which had been made to farmers since the single payment scheme began. However, there had been some improvements at the agency, especially in core financial controls, and a new senior leadership team had been appointed.

Tim said: "Reading the report by the National Audit Office it was as close as government administrators come to saying that a department is a disaster. The bottom line is that the Rural Payments Agency is letting farmers down. It is their job to ensure that farmers receive payments for providing essential environmental work - for most farmers in Cumbria, these payments are the difference between them scratching a living and going bankrupt. For six years now, the RPA has been letting farmers down, and the new government needs to do more than just blame the last one, we need real action. The agency is not in touch with the needs of rural communities, nor has it been properly accountable to ministers and the consequences are extreme hardship for local farmers in the South Lakes due to late payments and other mistakes. No senior civil servant would accept their salary being 6 months late, and no farmer should have to either!"