10 May saw the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee question the Scottish Government on the progress being made with the CAP Futures programme. A testy session is how I would describe it, writes NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker.
What do we know now that we didn’t before? Well a report does exist that tells us what needs to be done to fix the IT system. A new team is in place at the top of Scottish Government to oversee the IT system and fix it. They are not going to turn it off and start again. What they are going to do is fix the defects.
For three years, we have been highlighting the problems of the IT system. Several loan schemes have been won and put in place to bypass the IT system and deliver much needed funding to farms and crofts. They said today that the loans will continue to be an option if payments can’t be delivered on time. But we know that the loans don’t work for everyone. While the majority get some assistance with a loan scheme the only way to ensure that everyone gets what they expect and need is to fix the IT system.
MSPs were provided last minute with an executive summary of an independent report, compiled by Fujitsu, which has been commissioned by Scottish Government and their IT contractors (CGI) into the CAP Futures system. Due to its commercial sensitivity MSPs were unable to quote from the report and it is fair to say the Committee members were not happy about this. It meant that the session and lines of questioning were very tough on Scottish Government and the ability of the committee to scrutinise was limited
It appears that the executive summary concludes that the CAP Futures system is “architecturally sound” but there are a number of defects in the system and there is no recommendation to replace the Rural Payments and Services platform altogether. So that means they are not going to turn it off and start again.
The fact that there are a number of ‘defects’ in the system won’t come as a surprise to anyone. This fact is obvious.
It is clear that the system still requires much work to get it up to the standard that we want and expect. I have no doubt that all the people now involved in the IT system are committed to getting it right. But how much longer will we have to wait. The scrutiny by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee didn’t provide an answer to that.