Tuesday, 11 March 2008

DEFRA - a case for outsourcing?

The euphuese of the National Audit Office's press release barely conceals the NAO's criticism of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in its report of last Thursday. Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary, Steve Webb, was rather more robust:

“Defra is a financial basket case. There are glaring deficiencies in its financial management, whilst the people who rely on Defra, such as farmers dependent on subsidies, have received atrocious service.

“The situation is now so bad that key programmes are being slashed simply to try to balance the books."

This is why we in Wales should be concerned. The overspend on the failed farmers' payments system in England hits DEFRA's other, UK-wide, work.

“Defra is the lead department in tacking climate change, which is the biggest challenge facing the planet. It is appalling that it has been allowed to get into this mess,” says Steve Webb.

I have a suggestion. Since the Welsh Assembly Government got its farm payments scheme pretty well right, and the Labour government in Westminster is so keen on agencies and outsourcing, couldn't DEFRA solve one of its problems by commissioning WAG to service the English farmers?

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