§ Mr. Allen
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (I) what is the cost of the International Board for Agricultural Produce computer scheme to date; and if he will make a statement;
(2) whether the IBAP export refund scheme computer system is still working; and if he will make a statement;
(3) whether private contractors have been brought in to devise a replacement system for the IBAP export refund computer; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Donald Thompson
The costs incurred in developing and implementing the intervention board's external claims computer system from its inception in 1982 to date are estimated at just under £4 million. The bulk of the system covering most commodity sectors was delivered in July to September 1987. This then required substantial modification when new Customs and Community documentation came into effect on 1 January 1988. The system currently in use was delivered in March to July 1988. Before this became available substantial payment delays had built up, and recovering these has been handicapped by technical problems with the software in the system. Substantial progress has however been made. In the first nine months of this year the board processed some 540,000 transactions valued at £440 million. 70 per cent. of commodity sectors and of export refund claims by value are now being paid within two months of becoming payable, and the board is working to extend this to the remaining sectors as soon as possible.
In August 1988 the board brought in external consultants to assist with the recovery. They recommended that substantial enhancement of the current system was required in the short to medium term. Work to that end is now being undertaken by these consultants.
The consultants also recommended that this system should be succeeded by a new system able to respond flexibly and effectively to the intervention boards needs in 29W the longer term. The board has accepted this recommendation and is initiating a full business and systems analysis which will be undertaken by private sector consultants.
§ Mr. Donald Thompson
I am not aware of any redundancies in exporting firms which can be attributed to the payment delays resulting from this year's changes in the intervention board's external claims computer system.