59. MAFF's targets for CAP administration are currently
prepared for delivery through the RSCs and are worded as follows:
- to provide a high quality service to the farming
community by meeting targets in "Commitment to Service"
and by issuing scheme literature by agreed deadlines;
- to pay 98% of claims (96.15% by value) by the
EU payment deadlines;
- to keep disallowance to less than 0.5% of payments;
- to complete 100% of the EU targets for on-the-spot
- to ensure that effective IT systems are implemented
by achieving the milestones set out in relevant IT redevelopment
There are also three efficiency indicators of a three
per cent reduction in each of processing cost per claim, cost
per field inspection and administrative cost of making every pound
of scheme payments.
No explanation was given as to why three per cent had been
chosen; some effort should be made to justify this figure.
MAFF officials told us that the focus was "on delivery both
in terms of deadline and quality", with a management interest
in the relative costs.
60. We have been struck previously by the difference
in the comparative costs of scheme administration at the different
RSCs, information elicited by a parliamentary question.
We accept that this variation is at least partly due to the different
nature of the claims handled in each office.
Nevertheless, our concern persists that there is insufficient
information available to management within MAFF to assess the
real cost of operations or scope for improvement. In particular,
we were surprised that MAFF has not undertaken any benchmarking
between the paying agencies in the UK, which operate similar systems
and are therefore far easier to compare usefully than agencies
in other Member States.
We believe that such an exercise should be undertaken in order
to inform expectations of CAPPA. We recommend that it be done.
61. Last year the Irish Government set out its new
relationship with farmers in a protocol on direct payments. We
have seen the benefits of this more mature approach for ourselves,
both in discussions with organisations in Ireland and in examining
the much vaunted Irish IACS form. We were particularly struck
by the farmers' praise for the role played by the agency which
deals with cattle schemes and for its head who had come from a
non-agricultural background, determined to treat farmers as "customers".
The direct payments protocol is part of the general Irish Programme
for Prosperity and Fairness and therefore has no immediate counterpart
in the UK. However, it is far superior to the RSCs' Commitment
to Service, its nearest equivalent in terms of IACS administration.
We recommend that MAFF examine the possibility of developing
an agreed protocol with farmers' representatives in England on
improvements in the quality of service, its delivery and the information
provided by MAFF and its agencies to farmers, with the emphasis
on those matters which are most important to farmers.
Role of farmers
62. The Irish protocol on direct payments includes
a section on the role of the farmer in ensuring speedy payments
and resolution of problems. In the UK too it should be acknowledged
that farmers can do more to make the system easier for themselves.
For example, the Chairman of the IACS and Inspection Working Group
believed that the first step in reducing the number of inspections
required by the EU was for farmers to improve their record-keeping.
Similarly, an investment by the farmers now in ensuring that information
on cattle is correctly included in the Government's database will
pay off in the future by a removal of the need to submit claims
for schemes covered by the system and perhaps an end to record-keeping
Those benefits would result from collective actions but individuals
can also bring about improvements for themselves by such measures
as using electronic forms and, of course, by submitting forms
on time. If MAFF is to move towards greater co-operation with
the industry, then this will require a change of attitude on the
part of farmers as well. We cannot make recommendations aimed
at private sector organisations but we hope that farmers' representatives
will give positive support to any attempts by MAFF to simplify
the system and to change the culture of administration.
121 Q 28. Back
123 Ibid. Back
p. 88. Back
p. 18, para 5.1. Back
pp. 2-7. Back
pp. 2, 3. Back
129 Ibid. Back
131 Ibid. Back
p. 45. Back
p. 45, para 30. Back
p. 17; Q 111. Back
231, Session 2000-01, Q 30. Back
Q 36. Back
Q 79. Back
response to recommendation 21 of the IACS Report; Q 60. Back
Paper on an IACS Appeal Mechanism for Farmers in England, MAFF,
19 December 2000, para 31. Back
Paper, para 8. Back
Paper, para 13. Back
Paper, annex V. Back
pp. 85-86; Ev. p. 132, para 7; Ev. p. 18, para 4.6-4.10. Back
News Release 100/01, 16 March 2001. Back
154 Ibid. Back
p. 43. Back
156 Ibid. Back
Debates, 10 November 1999, col 664W. Back