back to article UK will pay EU £180m in fines due to botched CAP IT system – NAO

The UK may have to pay Europe up to £180m per year in fines due to the botched implementation of the 'digital by default' IT system for farmers' Common Agricultural Payments - the National Audit Office has said today. In March this year plans to make the system online-only were scrapped following the failure of the online …

  1. fruitoftheloon

    The same old sh1t eh?


    - functional and non-functional requirements weren't clear

    - responsibilities were not agreed and acted on

    - no f'er tested anything before pressing the big green 'roll it out' button

    - and it never occurred to any of the parties to, err talk to each other

    - no one senior enough had the balls to say "is this going to actually meet the objectives? Sh1t, perhaps we shouldn't roll it out yet then?"

    Meanwhile, back in the real world...

    /feigns surprise

    1. BearishTendencies

      Re: The same old sh1t eh?

      At least we now know what 33% of the GDS budget increase is for. Paying this on behalf of DEFRA.

      1. John Lilburne

        Re: The same old sh1t eh?

        "Paying this on behalf of DEFRA."

        No we are paying it on behalf of piss poor software engineers that can't specify or deliver the systems they're contracted to for.

        1. DaLo

          Re: The same old sh1t eh?

          "No we are paying it on behalf of piss poor software engineers that can't specify or deliver the systems they're contracted to for."

          It is not up to a software engineer to specify a system and ...

          "Many fundamental changes were made to the programme, significantly increasing the level of innovation* and risk"

          ...means that the system they were contracted for kept changing. It's hard to kick a ball into moving goalposts.

          *innovation or bloat?

          1. John Lilburne

            Re: The same old sh1t eh?

            System specification and design is a central part of Software Engineering otherwise your simply coding.

            1. dogged

              Re: The same old sh1t eh?

              System specification is entirely down to the client.

              They specify their requirements, we turn those requirements into a design. If they do not specify, there is no design.

              You're not a developer, are you? Let me guess, project "management"?

              1. John Lilburne

                Re: The same old sh1t eh?

                A client specifying their own system is like a lawyer representing himself in court.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: The same old sh1t eh?

              "otherwise your simply coding"

              I take it you mean "you're" otherwise it doesn't make sense. Do you write specifications?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It sickens me

    Just had a member of regular staff in here, having gone to a little bit beyond the usual effort, to save the council a few quid on purchasing a bit of average, everyday kit. And yet we've got managers just pissing hundreds of thousands up the wall on digital projects that, ultimately, we don't own the rights to and are screwed over on maintenance.

    It really pisses me off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It sickens me

      Not uncommon. The council i work for actively discourages initiative and wastes thousands on pointless ventures. They will spend £1000`s short term to save £100`s long term just to appease the bean counters.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: It sickens me

        "They will spend £1000`s"

        Amateurs. The professionals do it on a grand scale hosting cycle races & then find they can't afford grass cutting, libraries or road gritting.

  3. BearishTendencies


    In conclusion:

    DEFRA don't know what they are doing

    GDS really don't know what they are doing

    GDS are ideologues, who put rate their mantras more highly than risk control

    GDS use 'spend controls' to bully departments

    GDS abdicate responsibility by never actually saying what they will do

    Liam Maxwell failed hideously

    Costs went up

    Risks went up

    Yet we definitely need to fund them for another £450m because they save money.

    And we need to adopt Government as a Platform because its a good idea (by a book publisher)

    But it's OK. Because you've got a Macbook. And insecure Google Mail.

    Public sector IT, you are about to be even more fucked than ever before.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They just don't get it.

    Agile could work but for a programme like this without rock solid procedures it is doomed to fail. Specifications, specifications, specifications. Start with the core to create a working system that fulfils the minimum necessary requirements. Make it modular and flexible with no Magic Numbers (yes they still exist and Agile seems to have made the problem worse, in my experience) and now fixed size recordsets that shouldn't be fixed.

    Be able to expand it by inserting modules with plenty of interfaces and internal (even external) apis. Deliver the working core, add on the extras. Make sure every 'extra' is fully specified, can't harm the rest of the system, is entirely necessary and value for money. Prioritise it and add it if there is time and all the other parts are working and functional.

    1. David Roberts

      Re: Agile

      But Timescales!

    2. NeilMc

      Re: Agile vs Homer Simpsons Car

      Yep again looks like those Govt Mandarins could not help meddling.

      Lets add this feature and then that functionality and what about?..... you get the picture.

      All the while the contractors software developers are like cats chasing the laser beam on the floor........... yep hilarious until you reflect on the fact that all that running around is costing money, effort and time....

      Respecifying, Rebaselining, more integration, more coding rework to accommodate the Mandarins latest great idea.

      As you say build a stable core and add on as the new requirements are specified, justified and budgeted for.

      As regards x3 Govt Departments not talking and causing this a almighty feck-up. Well no surprise there....

      Love the way the Government continue to play smoke and mirrors with facts... broadcasting the good news GDS saved us shitloads....whilst burying the bad news.... GDS and others also cost us £trillions.

      What is reprehensible is that the rewards for such cluster fecks are...... give the dump feckers more money to piss away on vanity projects they neither understand nor can be bothered to oversee with the diligence their roles and the public expect.

      taking a scythe to the Public Sector could actually have a very beneficial effect

  5. Len

    Fraud incentive?

    [Tinfoil hat]

    I wonder if some people had an incentive to have this project fail.

    There are suspicions of quite significant fraud with EU subsidies by British farmers and the more accurate the measurement, the harder it becomes to defraud.

    Considering subsidies are tied to numbers such as land size, land type, cattle type, cattle size, litres/kilos of product produced etc. having numbers that are scattered across different records, hard to verify or ambiguous makes checks much harder. Having it all automated can make certain fraud flags a lot easier. “How can someone with only X hectares of land and Y amount of cows produce Z litres of milk?” That sort of stuff…

    [/Tinfoil hat]

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. dogged

      Re: Fraud incentive?


      I'm not saying fraud is impossible (it's clearly not) but it's pretty damn difficult unless you have enough land to lose a regiment in for a few weeks. Milk output is monitored and there's no subsidy anyway - the buyers pay the price they like. All animals are now tagged and have passports so you can't just invent a few. It might be possible to overstate how much land you've devoted to {subsidised_activity} but only if you have so much land that it would be a ball-ache for an inspector to check* and it would need to be scattered enough to prevent accurate aerial analysis.

      I understand that there's a strong urge to blame farmers for subsidies and then turn the welfare screws and call them all fraudsters as well but having come from that background it's hard to see how they manage it.

      *this is why inspectors tend to hassle small farms. If you can walk around it in a morning, you can take the rest of the day off.

      1. Len

        Re: Fraud incentive?

        @dogged Don’t get me wrong, I’m am most certainly not saying most or all farmers are fraudsters.

        All I know is that every year many EU member states (including Britain) fail to get their books signed off by EU auditors because the national agencies tasked with distributing EU subsidies can’t provide adequate proof the money was spent as it should be. Upon subsequent audits they uncover a mixture of incompetence, administrative mess and fraud (mainly overstating land and cattle size I believe). This new system was supposed to clean up this mess and reduce fraud in one go.

        This being Britain it’s probably 80% attributable to incompetence/mess and only 20% to fraud.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fraud incentive?

        I recall many years ago reading about farmers in one Mediteranean country who had all their olive trees in pots (I think it was olives, anyway some or other tree / bush crop they were claiming subsidies on) and were moving them from field to field as the inspector turned up to check each particular field.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Failure to implementation of the system

    What was the backend agile technology run on and who designed it, and who changed agile horses mid-stream.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Failure to implementation of the system

      My reading of the article was they changed from non-agile to agile methods mid project.

  7. Indolent Wretch

    This department have been fined before and for the same failings over many years, whether or was all done by IT or not. So it sounds like the IT system was a perfect implementation of their already piss poor failing procedures and practices.

  8. Often Confused

    "But this one's cheaper!!1"

    Ask for something, don't give true specs for what it is you're after (admittedly, sometimes not possible).

    Company A comes back with a number, contains things that are needed but weren't thought of by the customer, state as much. Also provide comprehensive turnkey solutions with proven track record.

    Company B come back, spec exactly what the customer asks for. 1/2 the cost, but is operationally non-functional.

    Moron in charge, who knows nothing except They are Right and Budget Costing(TM) clearly has trouble breathing while doing anything more complex than signing their name. Yet seems able to jump mental hurdles when they need to pass the buck, screams....

    "But this one's cheaper!!1"

    Been there, stepped back and watched the metaphorical building burn down around them, while they screamed that it was the contractors fault.

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