RPA faces warning over farm payments

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THE Rural Payments Agency has had its accounts given the green light for the first time in six years by the public spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office said the RPA and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs had made “good progress” in rectifying the problems caused by underpayments and overpayments which caused misery for farmers in Yorkshire.

However, the NAO also highlighted the £42m paid by Defra in fines for failing to properly follow European Union regulations.

And its report warned that reform of the Common Agricultural Policy would bring in more complexschemes with new regulations.

It urges the Government to learn the lessons from the disastrous introduction of the single payment scheme in 2005.

The single payments scheme for passing on European Union money to farmers introduced by the last Government was previously branded a “masterclass of maladministration” by the Public Accounts Committee of MPs.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “I am pleased to note the good progress made by the Department and RPA in rectifying past overpayments and underpayments to farmers, and in processing payments more accurately. The Department faces a number of significant risks in implementing impending CAP reform, however, and it will need to manage these well if it is to avoid a repeat of the high penalties imposed following the previous reforms in 2005.”