Cost of farming subsidy IT system increases by 111%

The cost of a new government IT system for a farmer subsidy programme has doubled, MSPs have heard.

Members of Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee were told that spending on the IT company delivering the project has risen from an estimated £28.8 million to £60.4m and that there was a “significant risk” to the programme’s delivery, reports The Herald.

MSPs and a taxpayer group have raised concerns about the computer system farmers and crofters must now use to apply for European Union (EU) subsidy payments.

The Scottish Government attributed the increased costs of the programme to the need to deliver the IT solution in “compressed timescales” and to changes to EC requirements.

The IT system is part of the Scottish Government’s Futures programme, a five-year project to oversee the implementation of the new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Scotland.

The programme aims to ensure the safe delivery of nearly £4bn of support to the farming, food and rural affairs sectors.

MSPs were told the estimated cost of the Futures programme had risen from £102.5m to £178m.

In a letter updating the committee on the project, Caroline Gardner, the auditor general for Scotland, said she had drawn the Parliament’s attention to the risk to successful delivery and value for money.

“The programme will continue to carry significant risk up to full implementation and beyond,” she said.

She said timescales were driven by European regulatory requirements including a deadline to make payments under the scheme to farmers by June, 2016.

But in Scotland payments are normally made in the preceding December and this is the timetable the Scottish Government is working to.

The committee agreed to take further evidence from the Scottish Government and a representative of the EU on the issue.