Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum submitted by Accenture (RPA 06)

1.  In April 2001, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) embarked on an ambitious IT- enabled business change programme aimed at improving its services to customers, reducing its cost base and opening new channels for serving rural communities.

2.  To help deliver this change programme, Accenture was engaged in January 2003 to develop, maintain and support the RPA's IT system (known as RITA). This system is a key part of the IT required to deliver EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments.

3.  As has been widely acknowledged by numerous commentators and experts, significant IT enabled business change programmes can be difficult to manage. There have been many examples of problem projects in the public and private sectors in recent years with difficulties attributed to poorly defined requirements, changing business needs and lack of business preparedness that can lead to delivery difficulties.

4.  The challenges presented by this particular change programme increased significantly as a result of the substantial reform in June 2003 of CAP schemes, including the introduction of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) for 2005. It was expected that the rules for the reformed payment scheme would be finalized before the end of the calendar year 2003, but in fact this did not happen until late 2004. To deliver the RITA system, development had to continue in parallel with the finalization of these rules.

5.  As a result, Accenture and the RPA agreed to vary the original contractual deliverables. Accordingly, revised releases of the RITA system required to meet the needs of the Single Payment Scheme 2005 payments were agreed and have now all been delivered. These deliveries took place as follows:

a)  Release 1a - the Rural Land Register went live in September 2004

b)  Release 1b - the Customer Register went live in February 2005

c)  Release 3a0 - the High Volume Data Capture functions went live in May 2005

d)  Release 3a1 - the core online functions for SPS went live in July 2005

e)  Release 3a2 - the core batch functions required to establish entitlements and make payments went live on 3 October 2005

6.  As stated, the dates of these deliveries were not those originally envisaged for RITA at the time the contract was signed, but were revised as the requirements of the Single Payment Scheme evolved.

7.  In dealing with payments for 2005, both the RITA system and RPA business users have had to be flexible enough to accommodate volumes of work that were higher than anticipated. As a result, enhancement both of hardware and software has been necessary in order to respond to changing business needs. For example, in the area of IACS land forms, 10 times the expected number of forms have been received.

8.  The RITA system is now in operation and continues to be stable. There is an Accenture team working with the RPA, responsible for resolving service issues, correcting faults and delivering changes on an on-going basis.

9.  At present, RITA is being developed further by Accenture, at the RPA's request, to meet the needs of the 2006 year and to provide further elements of the RPA change programme such as an external e-Channel and enhanced support for inspectors.

10.  There are other elements of IT required to support payments under the Single Payments Scheme which are not delivered by Accenture. These are not commented upon in this response.

11.  Accenture remains committed to supporting DEFRA and the RPA to help them to ensure that farmers are paid on time.


December 2005

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