Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 12

Memorandum submitted by the National Assembly for Wales Agriculture Department (H13)

INTRODUCTION

  1.  The EU legislative framework underpinning the implementation of the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) for Wales is the same as that of England. This is also the case for the financial control requirements on 'Paying Agencies' which disburse CAP payments from the EU budget. Because the situation in Wales is so similar to England this memorandum describes;

    —  The administration of the IACS and AAPS schemes and systems in Wales where they differ from England. Scheme information specific to Wales and the National Assembly's administration of each scheme is provided in annex 1.

    —  Best Practice and benchmarking initiatives, both within the National Assembly for Wales (NAWAD) Paying Agency and between Paying Agencies across the EU. This includes a note about the Joint Initiative for Government Services Across Wales (JIGSAW) programme.

    —  Plans for the future.

LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK

  2.  The National Assembly for Wales is designated, for the purposes of section 2 (2) of the European Communities Act 1972, by virtue of The European Communities (Designation) (No. 3) (Order) 1999 (SI 1999/2788) to make Regulations implementing the Common Agricultural Policy in Wales.

ADMINISTRATION OF CAP SCHEME IN WALES

  3.  NAWAD is responsible for administrating CAP schemes within Wales making direct payments to farmers, and the associated control regimes such as IACS. This comprises:

    —  Co-ordination of activity within the Paying Agency, which is undertaken by CAP Management Division (CAPM), based in Cardiff.

    —  The day to day scheme administration, including data entry, claim processing, dealings with customers, casework and field inspection, is carried out by three Divisional Offices (DOs). They employ over 400 staff and report to the Head of CAP Operations within CAPM.

    —  The execution of and accounting for payments is performed by the Divisional Office finance branches in conjunction with the Financial Accountability Division (FAD).

    —  The processing (approval and authorisation) of payments/claims for EAGGF schemes is carried out by the staff in the Divisional Offices of the Assembly Agriculture Department based at Caernarfon, Llandrindod Wells and Carmarthen.

    —  Financial Accountability Division (FAD) are responsible for processing each payment run and requesting the funds for the EAGGF payments from the Intervention Board.

    —  Internal audit is carried out by NAW's Internal Audit Services, based in Cardiff.

  4.  The scheme management responsibilities carried out by CAPM in Cardiff and DOs cover areas such as:

    —  preparation of bilingual scheme literature, ie guidance and forms;

    —  scheme implementation plans and budgets;

    —  management information and reporting;

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

    —  interpretation of scheme rules and guidance to DOs staff through scheme chapters and system manuals;

    —  work to ensure the implementation of accreditation criteria and consistency of scheme implementation, eg through training and sharing best practice;

    —  liaison with auditors;

    —  AQs, PQs and Ministers' correspondence;

    —  Provision of information and evidence to the Assembly Committees and to the Welsh Administrative Ombudsman.

  5.  The Intervention Board, as well as operating schemes making payments to traders both in Wales and in the rest of the UK, acts as the UK co-ordinating Body, promoting the harmonised application of scheme administration among the paying agencies. The Board also performs the role of funding body, transferring funds to NAWAD and the other paying agencies to allow them to make payments to applicants, and claims reimbursement of scheme expenditure from the EU.

  6.  The IACS form is an annual declaration and contains details of the land used for arable crops, which thus constitutes the claim for AAPS, and that used for forage, which underpins claims for the livestock premia. In 1999, 18,487 farmers submitted IACS declarations to DOs.

  7.  For all schemes a selection of inspections are undertaken annually. These are chosen using a computerised risk analysis system. On the spot checks of land parcels have been made more efficient over the last three years by digitising the holdings concerned. This and the purchase of Global Positioning System equipment, which supports some of the inspections, will dovetail in with the move to a Geographical Information System (GIS) (see under `plans for the future' below).

  8.  As a result of the various checks made on all applications, a number 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 Divisional Office. If they are still not satisfied they can write to the Head of CAPM in Cardiff. If the decision is maintained and the farmer remains unsatisfied, he can write to the Assembly First Minister or Minister for Rural Affairs. He can also choose to enlist the help of his Assembly Member or Member of Parliament. Ministers' decisions can be challenged through the judicial review process, which may involve a reference to the European Court of Justice to determine points of EU law. Some in the industry have expressed concern that the current procedures are entirely internal to NAWAD and would like to see a more independent element brought into the process. To this end a consultative document has been issued outlining an independent appeals process on the interpretation and application of the legislation.

  9.  The National Assembly has an internal code of practice for dealing with complaints. If a farmer thinks that his claim has not been handled properly, he can appeal directly to the Assembly. If the farmer wishes to complain about perceived maladministration he can write directly to the Welsh Administration Ombudsman.

BEST PRACTICE AND BENCHMARKING

  10.  In April 1999 NAWAD embarked on a £16 million, three year change management programme, known as JIGSAW (Joint Initiatives for Government Services Across Wales). The JIGSAW Programme is 75 per cent funded by the Treasury's Invest to Save Budget.

  There are two joint initiatives of JIGSAW:

    —  Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the administration of the Common Agricultural Policy to farmers and producers in Wales. This is about improving the quality and delivery of services to customers and reducing the cost to the National Assembly for Wales of administering CAP.

    —  Working in partnership with farming organisations and other public sector organisations to improve the co-ordination of and access to services to farmers, farming businesses, farming facilities and other rural citizens connected to Agriculture. This involves setting up first stop shops which will enable customers to access information on a range of services in one location as well as providing them with access to the National Assembly for Wales.

  11.  The JIGSAW Programme is being managed using PRINCE2 methodology and under the umbrella of the EFQM Excellence Model. The first EFQM Excellence Model self-assessment took place in August 1999. This provided a benchmark against which to assess improvements but importantly provided a framework within which to prioritise improvement activities.

  JIGSAW aims to:

    —  Understand customer and stakeholder requirements so as to determine the priorities for improvement;

    —  Work in partnership with farming organisations, other public sector organisations who provide services to farmers and the local Trade Union Side, to bring about improvements in performance;

    —  Streamline business processes which will be underpinned by new flexible IT systems;

    —  Develop the culture of the organisation to one that is proactive, responsive, customer focused and where continuous improvement of services, process and people is the norm;

    —  Develop staff so that they can maximise their contribution and potential;

    —  Identify and sharing best practice;

    —  Create a working environment that supports team working and enables us to provide a professional service to our customers.

ACHIEVEMENTS

  12.  The following summarises some of the main achievements since the start of the JIGSAW Programme:

    —  We have conducted a customer survey (3,000 farmers) to determine our priorities. Areas covered by the survey included:

    —  which public sector organisations we should work in partnership with and who should be co-located in first stop shops;

    —  where points of access to services should be;

    —  priorities for improving the services currently provided to farmers;

    —  the strategy for increasing the use of IT by farmers;

    —  Process reviews and a new approach to business planning have contributed to an improvement in performance against Charter Targets for farmers.

    —  Process reviews have been conducted on the main business processes and these have contributed to the improvements in performance. The reviews have involved staff at all grades and involved reviewing the whole process from forms design to the making of payments to identify how they can be streamlined and improved.

    —  A new approach to business planning has been introduced which focuses on planning whole processes that serve customers. Assembly Officials responsible for managing elements of the process take joint responsibility for ensuring improvements are implemented;

    —  A number of improvements have been made to the documentation issued to farmers with the aim of making it easier and simpler for farmers to provide information and claim CAP subsidies.

    —  Free herd and flock books have been issued to all sheep and cattle farmers to provide a common framework to help customers adhere to EC requirements;

    —  We have held a number of workshops to ensure farmers understand what is required of them.

    —  Records Clinics have been held across Wales to help farmers ensure they keep accurate flock and herd records;

    —  A number of workshops held across Wales to advise farmers of changes to EC requirements. These have been well received by farmers. Farmers' forums are being piloted in North Wales and provide farmers with an opportunity to meet the staff who serve them, to raise queries and to give us their views on how services can be improved.

    —  A number of farms selected for inspection have had their farmland digitised with maps produced. Farmers who normally regard inspections as a burden, have welcomed the inspection as this means they have an accurate and up-to-date map of their farm;

    —  A farmer has been appointed as a full member of CAPM's Management Board;

    —  We write to farming organisations each month to tell them about our plans and our performance;

    —  Leadership and Change management workshops have been devised and are being delivered in-house to all CAPM staff;

    —  Scheme workshops, involving staff from all sites, provide a forum to share best practice and to help ensure a consistent approach.

    —  Visits to other organisations have taken place to identify best practice. CAPM staff are involved in an EU benchmarking project looking at aspects of CAP administration such as the efficient administration of individual schemes, customer surveys etc. Assembly Officials attended a recent meeting of the Panta Rhei Group (representatives of the EU) to share experience of managing changes to the administration of CAP;

    —  Farmer friendly front offices set up in the three Divisional Offices to provide a more business-like environment in which to deal with customer queries. These offices have internet PCs as well as a range of information on Assembly services.

    —  More accessibility to service—we have extended the opening hours in area offices and arranged for officers to visit local livestock markets to enable farmers to submit forms and get advice in the two weeks leading up to our main scheme closing date. This has improved the quality of subsidy forms received and reduced the number of queries;

    —  We are in the process of selecting a private sector company to develop new IT systems, which will enable manual processes to be automated and enable us to respond more quickly to customers. The scanning of forms is being piloted.

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

  13.  A pilot first stop shop, which will provide farmers with access to services of other organisations, is being set up at the Caernarfon Divisional Office in December 2000. Once evaluated this will be extended to the other two DOs.

    —  Set up small, multi-skilled teams, who will provide the full range of CAP services to farmers in a geographical area. This will provide farmers with a single point of contact.

    —  Implement customer survey action plan (which was launched in October 2000). This sets out specifically what changes will be implemented during the coming months and includes:

    —  Extending opening and telephone hours at Divisional Offices and Area Offices in the last two weeks before scheme closing dates;

    —  Attending local livestock markets (where Divisional and Area Offices are some distance away) so that farmers can obtain guidance and hand in completed subsidy forms;

    —  Introduce an appointments system so that farmers can see an Assembly Official at a specified time which is convenient to them;

    —  Set more specific targets for making payments and publicise these together with our performance;

    —  Improve the design of claim forms so that they are shorter, simpler and easier to understand;

    —  Provide clearer guidance on how to claim grants and subsidies accurately and avoid penalties;

    —  Run workshops to explain changes to schemes and how to make sure claim forms are completed correctly;

    —  Develop and extend Farmers' Helpline that has been running as part of Business Connect since July 2000;

    —  Provide at Divisional Offices (first stop shops) and other convenient locations the information farmers need to diversify and develop their business;

    —  Help farmers make the best use of IT.

    —  Implement recommendations from process reviews to further improve performance against charter targets. Set up process reviews for remaining processes;

    —  Work in partnership with other public sector organisations in Wales to develop a Geographical Information System for joint use. This will be fully integrated with the new IT systems in order to provide comprehensive special customer information alongside the more traditional textual/numeric computer records.

    —  Introduce new IT systems. We have commenced the development of new IT systems (to replace existing systems) which will be more robust and up-to-date, utilising new technology and providing a greater degree of process automation. This will involve the delivery of a new customer information system (incorporating IACS data), provide improved validation and control, and accuracy of payments. Internet access will be made available for customers to submit data electronically and resolve enquiries. IT facilities will also be provided to field staff to improve processing of inspection activities.

    —  Develop a people strategy which will provide training and development opportunities to enable staff to give of their best and meet the changing needs of the business. This will include amongst other things leadership and change management training for all staff, induction training for new staff, skills training to create multi-skilled teams and training in problem solving techniques to build a culture of continuous improvement. A staff perception survey will be conducted to provide a benchmark for improvement.

1 November 2000


 
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