Dept staff doubled to cope with SFP maps
The Department of Agriculture is set to maintain double the number of staff to work on map digitisation in an effort to ensure single farm payments (SFP) arrive on time this year.
The news will come as a relief to the thousands of farmers that were left waiting for months last year for more than €120m of delayed farm payments.
Department officials estimate that more than 37,000 maps will require digitising this year, which is comparable to last year's volumes.
However, Paud Evans, principal officer at the payments section, was keen to assure farmers that the Department has double the number of staff trained to digitise maps compared to this time last year.
"These will be kept on until we get over this period of digitising," he said.
With a sample audit of four individual SFP applications in January revealing problems with three, the review and digitisation of maps process that slowed so many payments last year looks set to continue this year.
In addition, the overhang of payments that were not fully processed until the end of February this year has already put Department staff on the back foot in relation to getting started on this year's applications.
"2009 was an ideal year for us," said Mr Evans. "We had all our digitising finished in October and everyone paid by December. But we dealt with 71,000 applications with maps attached last year. That was nearly three times what we had to cope with in 2009."