Examination of Witnesses (Questions
WEDNESDAY 6 MARCH 2002
BENDER CB, MR
120. And the cost of the total payments made
out so that we can see the trends in the case of each one. Third,
the number of claims submitted for each type of scheme.
(Mr Bender) We will do that.
Can I also just point out to the Committee that the department
has a Public Service Agreement target of reducing the administration
costs of the CAP by ten per cent by 2004 and the establishment
of the Rural Payments Agency is intended to bring that about.
121. You did run through some figures quite
rapidly. You did say ten to 13 per cent by volume and two to five
per cent by value. As I understand it that is the UK element of
total EU cases, is that right?
(Mr Bender) Yes.
122. Total cases of fraud?
(Mr Bender) No, irregularity.
123. What is the total cost of irregularity
in the EU and what is the total cost of irregularity according
to your estimate in the United Kingdom?
(Mr McNeill) In the year 2000 for all Member States
the total cost of irregularity was £298 million.
124. So the two to five per cent is two to five
per cent of that?
(Mr McNeill) In 2000 it was four per cent and our
element of that was £12 million.
125. Mr Bender, in answer to Mr Davidson who
asked about encouraging detection of fraud, you seemed to suggest
that not a lot was being done, it was not anything you had thought
about very much. This report from three years ago from this Committee
precisely talked about this issue of encouraging detection of
fraud. This is on page `vi' of the Twenty-Fifth Report of this
Committee from 1998-99: "We recommend that the Ministry review
its criteria for prosecution, such as the potential size of judicial
penalties, the value of the irregularity and the claimant's past
behaviour. This review should take into account the approach of
other government departments such as the Benefits Agency, and
the deterrent effect of prosecution on others tempted to abuse
the system." Were you not aware of this recommendation?
(Mr Bender) I was not aware of the last part of that
recommendation; I plainly should have been and I apologise to
126. This was three years ago.
(Mr Bender) I understand.
127. You have been in charge of the department
for two years.
(Mr Bender) Nearly.
128. June 2000. This does lead me to suppose
that perhaps Mr Davidson's charge that you have been a little
complacent has some merit.
(Mr Bender) As I said to Mr Davidson, I do not believe
that we are complacent about it. The one thing that is clear we
have not done enough of is comparisons with other departments
and other systems that other departments operate.
129. If I can refer you to page `xvii', paragraph
61, it says: "Almost half of the 25 cases of suspected fraud
or serious negligence referred for investigation were as a result
of tip-offs to regional offices from other farmers. The Ministry
should do more to encourage the exposure of those trying to defraud
the taxpayer. Here too the experience of other departments, for
example with benefit administration, may be of relevance".
Are you saying that you are now going, although you were not before
you came here today, to institute a programme of looking aggressively
at what is going on in other departments?
(Mr Bender) Can I answer that in two ways. The first
direct answer is yes and the second answer is that I had already
asked that the next meeting of the department's Audit and Risk
Committee look at the idea of extending beyond the Rural Payments
Agency some free phone fraud line type approach.
130. Mr McNeill gave a cost of, I think it was,
£16 million per year, or was it 60, for the cost of your
(Mr McNeill) My recollection is it is 400 inspectors,
total cost about £16 million a year. We can provide the exact
131. If you could write with that figure that
would be helpful.
(Mr McNeill) I will do, sir.
132. How much of that goes on training?
(Mr McNeill) I do not have that figure to hand.
133. If you could provide that figure as well.
Do you know if your training includes training in map reading?
(Mr McNeill) I know that inspectors have had training
in crop identification, circa 1995 it was a major initiative.
I know that they have had training in practical skills required
for their job.
134. Including map reading?
(Mr McNeill) My understanding is that is the case
but, again, we will write to you. 10
135. That would be very helpful. I, like others,
am astonished by this question of the grid references. In paragraph
3.6 it says: "Under the arable scheme, Joseph Bowden supplied
legitimate Ordnance Survey references and these were checked.
However, under the Fibre Flax Scheme map references were not necessarily
required, as fields could be referred to by name . . ." Does
that mean that they were sometimes required and sometimes not
required? That iswhat "not necessarily required" sounds
(Mr MacKinnon) No, it meant that the field had to
be identified in some way, so if you did not have a name you would
need a number.
136. So there was a form you filled in where
you might have put the name or you put the number?
(Mr MacKinnon) Yes.
137. If you put the number, what happened to
that number when it was received?
(Mr MacKinnon) The inspector would expect to see that
on the farm plan when he arrived. The inspector is sent a sketch
map by the farmer showing where in relation to the whole farm
those particular fields numbered or named will appear. When he
arrives at the farm he will expect to see the farm version of
that map and to see that number is in the location that he is
being directed to.
138. You were in some cases for the Fibre Flax
Scheme asking for numbers but if they gave names that was okay
(Mr MacKinnon) No, we were asking them to identify
139. One of the ways of identifying the field
you were accepting was to provide a number.
(Mr MacKinnon) Indeed, sir, yes.
8 Ev 28, Appendix 1; and Ev 32-37, Appendix C. Back
& 10 Ref footnote to Q 88. Back