The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is ‘sleeping walking into another IT fiasco‘, according to the ICSA Rural Development Chairman Seamus Sherlock.

He believes the Department’s IT system is not up to scratch to deal with the expected high level of online applications it will receive in the coming weeks under the Knowledge Transfer Scheme and Basic Payment Scheme.

“Look at the debacle we have had with GLAS over the last few weeks.

“Farmers were promised this money in December, then later in January and now we are just a few days away from St. Patrick’s Day.

Farmers were given a deadline to have their applications and all the relevant documentation in by, but the Department continues to let farmers down on its end of the bargain.

Thousands of farmers are still awaiting their GLAS payments with frustration levels continuously rising, Sherlock said.

The ICSA Rural Development Chairmen also highlighted concerns that the Department’s online system, to accept applications under the Knowledge Transfer Scheme, has been slow to open.

“We are still awaiting IT systems for Knowledge Transfer advisers and Knowledge Transfer approved vets.

These systems should be up and running by now; nobody wants to see another GLAS situation.

Advisors are required to have all information inputted for the Knowledge Transfer Scheme by May 31, he added.

‘It will be like a traffic jam; a pile-up of applications’

With applications now open for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), Sherlock believes the Department’s IT system will struggle to cope with the workload.

With these schemes coming down the line together it will be like a traffic jam; there could be a pile-up of applications.

The ICSA Rural Development Chairman has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to get on top of the situation and to ensure that the Department’s IT systems are capable of handling the expected workload.

“The fiasco over delayed GLAS payments, which is still an on-going problem, has left a bad taste with farmers.

“Some farmers are depending on that money to pay the contractor or local merchant.

“Blaming IT problems is a poor excuse when the Department has had more than enough time to get it right. It just doesn’t wash with farmers,” he said.

Sherlock believes that if the IT systems surrounding the Knowledge Transfer Scheme are not sorted out, farmers may be inclined to ‘cut their losses and walk away‘ from the scheme entirely.