Department's online system is a 'disaster'
Published 29/04/2015 | 02:30
The Department of Agriculture's application systems for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and GLAS were labelled a "total and absolute disaster" this week.
Private farm consultants and Teagasc staff said completing applications for the two schemes was proving extremely frustrating because of the slowness of the Department's online application system.
Tom Dawson, president of the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA), said his members were experiencing "serious problems" with the Department's application systems for both the BPS and GLAS.
He said the most common difficulties were:
• The general slowness of the system;
• Land parcels not appearing on the online system;
• Maps not appearing on the online system;
• Planners unable to split parcels, particularly for tillage;
• Error messages informing the user that the system was overloaded or down.
Mr Dawson said the ongoing difficulties were a serious concern for both consultants and farmers.
However, the Department of Agriculture rejected suggestions of any application system problems.
"The system is working extremely well as evidenced by the numbers registered for online services," the Department insisted.
"Following a major software release which implemented a number of enhancements to the system, including the introduction of a new improved mapping tool, the system was down for a few hours on the 20th of April.
"The comprehensive online services available to the Department's customers and for farmers in particular is part of the commitment to maximise the use of technology for farmers' benefit."
But Carlow farm consultant Pat Minnock claimed the Department's application systems were a "total and absolute disaster."
He said the GLAS system had totally crashed last week, while the BPS system was extremely slow.
"I don't know where this will end. It's taking us three times longer to complete applications this year, and we still haven't done the greening maps," Mr Minnock explained.
"The [Department] system slows to a virtual stop at around 8.30am each morning when the number of users increases. So I have taken to doing plans early in the morning or late at night to try and make progress."
Mr Minnock said he had contacted the Department on a number of occasions regarding the continuing difficulties with the system.
And the problems are not confined to private planners.
One well known Teagasc advisor, who did not wish to be named, said the Department system was "dog slow" and questioned if it was "fit for purpose".
He said Teagasc advisors were struggling to get through BPS applications but were finding it impossible to make progress because of the ongoing issues with the Department system.
"From our point of view, the BPS applications are a mess," he said.
Meanwhile, with just over 10,000 farmers having submitted actions for the GLAS scheme so far, planners now believe that the new environmental scheme will only reach half its target of 30,000 applicants this year.