£150m of taxpayers money can do a lot of things. It can be invested in green tech, modern infrastructure, reducing unemployment…or paying fines after the government makes a shambles of its policy.
Who’d have thought I’d be blogging about EU farm payments? I certainly didn’t, until I realised that due to SNP governmental incompetence, Scotland’s taxpayers are facing the not inconsequential bill of £150m in fines.
So what’s the context?
The EU undertakes payments to farmers in order to ensure they stay viable, can invest in modern technologies and so forth. Basically, to keep our food infrastructure viable and active in a world where foreign imports are increasingly the bread-line of western countries. Agricultural self-sufficiency isn’t something Britain has generally succeeded in, but EU farm payments play a vital part in maintaining our diminishing food independence.
So these payments are important. It’s farming folks livelihood. These payments derive from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
The SNP government installed an expensive new computer system to manage the payments of these CAP farming payments. A glitzy, expensive government-managed new computer system…what could possibly go wrong?
Well, an Audit Scotland report has revealed that thanks to this expensive new computer system, these CAP payments are unlikely to be paid on time. Our Scottish government has admitted there is “extreme risk” these payments won’t reach the farmers who depend on them on time. June 30th is the due date. It’s now increasingly obvious the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon will miss that due date.
It gets better. The Telegraph newspaper reveals that since December 2014, conflicts of interest, incompetence and chronic over-spending has left the new payment system in complete disarray:
“The report said that in December 2014 a whistle-blower made Scottish ministers aware that the “delivery director” responsible for delivering the programme at the minimum possible cost owned an agency that provided dozens of staff.
Although this was a clear conflict of interest, he was allowed to continue to signing off overtime claims for staff employed by his agency and it took eight months for the Scottish Government to include the conflict on an official register.
He was only removed from the programme in January this year and CGI, the firm contracted the deliver the computer scheme, still uses staff employed by his agency.
Audit Scotland concluded that the programme is unlikely to ever deliver value for money and the Scottish Government could run out of funds before it is completed, despite it being radically reduced in scope.”
Note the line “unlikely to ever deliver value for money”.
But bare with me, this story gets even worse.
In her latest cabinet reshuffle the minister responsible, Mr Richard Lochhead MSP, asked not to be considered for his post. So Sturgeon didn’t even take the initiative of sacking the minister responsible for the debacle. He actually had to ask to not be considered for the post!
What about the fines?
Now for the centre piece of this veritable luncheon table of delights.
If the deadline is not met (June 30th, a date the SNP themselves admit is “extremely unlikely” to be met) Scottish taxpayers will have to fork out potentially £125m in fines; in addition to the huge cost overruns of the disastrous computer system!
So let’s ball park the costs for Scottish taxpayers here:
£125m in fines + £200m in “emergency support” the Nats dished out in a botched attempt to avoid the looming disaster + £4m a month being spent on the system (despite this, it’s projected to actually run out of money by November!)
You couldn’t make incompetence and misuse of taxpayers money on this scale up. Meanwhile this is taking place in the a context of Scottish unemployment being higher than in England. But let’s not worry, ‘cos John Swinney assures us all that he’s “keeping a tight reign” on the costs. Never mind only 29% of our farmers have received their farm payments to date. Never mind the huge costs the taxpayer is liable to pay out. Let’s not worry ‘cos John ‘fiscal rectitude’ Swinney is hot on the case. Our very own deputy daug.