Rural Payments Agency

Following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed and troubled projects from around the world.


Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – UK
Project name: Single Payment Scheme
Date : Jan-Dec 2006 Cost :$610M USD

Synopsis :
Following an European Union agreement to standardize subsidy payments to farmers, DEFRA develops systems to enable payments to UK farms.  Lack of management and poor decision making cause DEFRA to miss implementation deadline exposing the UK to possibility of significant EU fines.  Failure to make payments on schedule leaves farmers without required cash flow resulting in financial hardship.

In the words of Edward Leigh, chairman of the Commons Public Account committee: “The single payment scheme’s…implementation last year to a near-impossible timetable was a masterclass in bad decision-making, poor planning, incomplete testing of IT systems, confused lines of responsibility, scant objective management information and a failure by the management team to face up to the unfolding crisis.”

Contributing factors as reported in the press:
Underestimation of complexity.  Inadequate requirements.  Design that was “rigid and task based”, and “unsuited” to the agency’s needs. Choosing the most complex design possible while simultaneously attempting to complete the project in a compressed time frame.  Lack of testing (due to compressed schedule).

Reference links :

  1. MPs slam IT system problems at Rural Payments Agency
  2. Two top officials blamed by MPs for farm cash fiasco