Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by The Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (H 7)

  The memorandum submitted to the inquiry by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food detail aspects which are common to the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department, and these are not reproduced here. The common references cover—legislative framework, requirements for financial control, best practice and benchmarking, scheme dates and descriptions (for all but the LFASS) and IACS disallowance.


  1.  The SERAD Paying Agency is responsible for administering the CAP schemes making direct payments to farmers, and the associated control regimes such as IACS within Scotland. It comprises the following elements:

    —  co-ordination of activity within the Paying Agency by the CAP Management Division (CAPM) in Edinburgh, working in conjunction with Senior Agricultural Staff and Information System Division colleagues, who are all based in Edinburgh. Policy is also formulated and controlled from Edinburgh;

    —  the day to day scheme administration, including data capture of claims, claim processing, dealings with customers, casework and field inspection is carried out by SERAD's 18 local Area Offices, arranged into eight administrative units each headed by a Principal Agricultural Officer. These are staffed by professional and technical agricultural staff and supporting administrative staff. The professional and technical staff all have formal agricultural qualifications at degree/diploma level and are multi-functional, their work covering all CAP Schemes and a range of other duties. The area officers report to senior Agricultural staff in Edinburgh;

    —  the execution of and accounting for payments is performed by an arm of the Scottish Executive's Finance Division in Edinburgh; and

    —  internal audit is carried out by the Scottish Executive's Internal Audit Division based in Edinburgh.

  2.  The computerised system for administering and paying the CAP Schemes is known as the Scottish Integrated Administration and Control System (SIACS). It comprises a single, central database containing information about Scottish producers, their land, their livestock and their claims for subsidy. SIACS is fully integrated so that cross-scheme requirements such as risk analysis and stocking density calculations can be easily carried out. The local area offices are connected to the central database by high-speed connections and staff in local areas and in Edinburgh have access to the database via personal computers.

  3.  To aid administration and to comply with IACS legislation, SERAD introduced in 1997 a full Geographic Information System covering all the land in Scotland which is subject to a claim under the CAP Schemes. All land (including the Agri-Environment and Afforestation schemes) has been mapped and digitised to form a complete Field Register of Scotland, consisting of more than 400,000 claimed fields. Comprehensive and valid (in terms of the regulatory requirements) field register validation checks have been programmed into the computerised system for land claim conflicts.

  4.  The scheme management responsibilities carried out by CAPM with the involvement of the Agricultural staff and the IS Division cover areas such as:

    —  preparation of scheme literature, ie guidance and forms;

    —  scheme implementation plans;

    —  management information and reporting;

    —  development of IT systems, including risk analysis for the selection of inspections;

    —  interpretation of scheme rules and guidance to staff through desk instructions and system guidance;

    —  work to ensure the implementation of accreditation criteria and consistency of scheme implementation, eg through training and quality management checks;

    —  liaison with auditors;

    —  PQs and Minister's correspondence;

    —  provision of information and evidence to Parliamentary Committees and to the Scottish Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration; and

    —  co-ordination of IACS issues both within the Scottish Executive and in liaison with other UK Departments.

  5.  The Paying Agency has to ensure that its systems and procedures comply with EU requirements and that performance targets are met. These targets are derived from SERAD's objective of:

    "Implementing the CAP subsidy schemes in Scotland efficiently, effectively and in line with EU requirements, by operating fair and effective systems for paying support to farmers".

  Within this overall objective, SERAD has the following targets:

    —  to provide a high quality service to the farming community by meeting Citizens' Charter targets and by issuing scheme literature timeously;

    —  to pay 96.16 per cent of claims by the EU payment deadlines; and

    —  to complete 100 per cent of the EU targets for on-the-spot inspections.


  6.  In 1999, 21,402 Scottish farmers submitted IACS declarations. The table below shows the total number of claims made in 1999 and the amounts paid out.

Number of Claims Total Cost (£m)Average Claim
Arable Area payments9,083 136.415,014
Sheep Annual Premium13,318 77.15,793
Beef Special Premium53,775 52.3972
Suckler Cow Premium8,859 82.49,300

  All claims are subject to various administrative and system checks before payments are issued directly to farmer's bank accounts by BACS. In addition management checks are carried out on 5 per cent of applications as well as in year monitoring of inspection results.

  7.  As a result of the various checks, a number of claims are reduced or rejected and, where appropriate, the penalties in the IACS legislation and/or domestic legislation are applied. Farmers who wish to query a decision on a claim can take it up with their local Area Office. The area staff re-investigate the case, and in complex cases consult with the senior Agricultural staff and Policy Division in Edinburgh. If the decision is maintained and the farmer is still not satisfied, he can ask his Scottish or UK Member of Parliament to raise it with the Minister. The Minister's decision can be challenged through judicial review.

  8.  These arrangements have been reviewed and from 9 November 2000, a new appeals procedure for farmers penalised or experiencing reductions in relation to their EU subsidy claims will be introduced. As announced in the Scottish Parliament on 4 October, the new appeals procedure consists of three distinct stages:

    —  an internal SERAD review by three officials not involved in the initial decision;

    —  a review by an advisory panel of two external people plus the SERAD scheme manager (who would not normally have been involved in the internal panel review or the original decision), who will then advise the Minister for Rural Affairs; and

    —  appeal to the Scottish Land Court, which is a formal court of law.

  Each stage of the procedure will consider the facts of the case and the relevant European and UK legislation and will consider whether SERAD's decision is consistent with the legislation.

  9.  These procedures do not replace the existing arrangements for dealing with complaints about the standards of service. If a farmer thinks there has been maladministration in the handling of his case, he can refer his case through his Scottish or UK Member of Parliament to the Scottish Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.


  10.  A review of CAP administration is currently in progress in SERAD. This is being managed by a steering group comprising senior officials and two external members. The detailed work is being carried out by a project team drawn from the main scheme administrators and operators. The review, which will consider both short and long-term changes in the administration of CAP regimes in Scotland, is scheduled to report by summer 2001.


  11.  A recently completed review of red tape recommended a number of actions, most of which have been implemented or are under active consideration. In response to one of the key recommendations, an external panel, including industry and other sectoral interests has been set up to provide ongoing customer input into the content of guidance notes and claim forms. The panel is also considering a future communications strategy.


  12.  SERAD already has an integrated system for processing applications, and has embarked on other changes intended to improve scheme administration. These include:

    —  electronic forms;

    —  automating cattle inspections;

    —  simplification of the IACS rules; and

    —  possible use of aerial photography to supplement existing GIS.

  13.  Cattle inspections are carried out for verification purposes in all subsidy schemes and to validate the traceability system. These inspections are currently selected according to individual scheme, thus often resulting in multiple inspections for claimants and a large number of inspections every year. We are therefore moving to a process which selects by producer, and this will reduce the total inspection burden both for producers and for SERAD.

  14.  SERAD has purchased an inspection tool for measuring land areas at field and parcel level by Global Positioning Satellite. This has enabled the deployment of advanced IT systems in fields and has proved to be a rapid and efficient alternative to the traditional methods used in earlier years (maps and pacing, followed up by measurements using a wheel, tape or planimeter).

  15.  Electronic service delivery is currently being piloted in the SCP Scheme. The system went live on 1 July and the pilot will run until 31 October. Two hundred and fifty producers volunteered to take part and currently over 110 have successfully submitted their claims electronically. Indications from the pilot are that there will be significant savings from the introduction of electronic service delivery to SERAD and to the farming community. SERAD plans to roll out the pilot arrangements (with improvements) to all CAP schemes by 2004-05.


30 October 2000

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