Miliband's Department Failure
The total bill for the Government's failure to pay English farmers their subsidies on time over the past two years could reach £500 million, a committee of MPs is expected to say today.
The cost includes up to £305 million in fines from Europe, £156 million on "fixing" the failures at the Rural Payments Agency and £21 million in interest payments to farmers last year.
In a long-awaited report which is expected to be critical of the Government, MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee are expected to determine whether responsibility should rest with a wider range of ministers and officials than who have lost their jobs so far.
While Lord Bach, the junior minister responsible, and Johnson McNeill, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency, were sacked, Tony Blair promoted Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, who bore ultimate responsibility, to the Foreign Office.
Mr McNeill was eventually paid off by Defra after drawing his £114,000 salary for nearly nine months but Sir Brian Bender, the Defra permanent secretary, to whom Mr McNeill reported, was promoted to the Department of Trade and Industry.
Sir Brian was one of a group of officials who was told by Government business advisers six months before the system went live that it stood only a 40 per cent chance of working.
The role of Andy Lebrecht, the senior official responsible for the payments policy, who briefed ministers on whether the complicated system chosen to make the payments would work may be examined. He still works at Defra.
The system is still broken, those responsible aren't held to account and the Minister now in charge is too busy running a "virtual campaign" against Brown (not that he will stand but he may get some serious loving from Brown as a result) to worry about his departmental melt down.