Defra is “confident” it can “handle” 30% of unsupported applications • The registration

Defra is “confident” it can “handle” 30% of unsupported applications • The registration

The UK’s Department of Agriculture and Farming has said it is “confident” it is managing the risk that 30 per cent of its applications have been left out of supplier support.

According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has one of the biggest legacy IT problems of any UK government agency.

The government spending watchdog found that the £2.2 billion ($2.71 billion) budget department estimated it would need to spend £726 million ($894 million) on legacies in the four-year period from 2021 to 2022, the second largest legacy release requirement is Work from Home. In a report published in December 2022 [PDF]the NAO also found that 30 per cent of these apps were not supported by the vendor.

Tamara Finkelstein, the ministry’s highest-ranking civil servant, told the representatives last week that 20 percent of the tenders are direct, 50 percent are extended supplier subsidies, and 30 percent are unsubsidized.

“[They are] support, so we could not extend the support. We need to pay attention, and we need to pay much more attention. We also have support from other suppliers to ensure we have support if things go wrong. This is a very difficult situation,” he explained to the public finance committee, the parliament’s spending watchdog.

He said that because the department had inherited so many satellite agencies, the situation could be worse than the NAO revealed because there was “grey” IT that the department’s core function was not aware of.

“We have some money to identify them and bring them in. It might be a little worse than described, but I’m sure we can handle it with our group approach and investments that will allow us to manage the risk,” he said. to the representatives.

Chris Howes, Defra’s director of digital and information, explained that internal technology teams, as well as service providers including Capgemini and IBM, were available if something went wrong with an app. As part of “hypercare”, we carry out additional routine monitoring of these services. We are more aware when there is a problem and can quickly provide support if something happens to someone. of these applications.”

The ministry has also received investments to modernize the applications, although it is still questionable whether this is enough.

Defra estimated the NAO had to spend £726 million ($894 million) on the legacy in the four-year period from 2021 to 2022, and it would take until 2030 to resolve all legacy issues.

However, as part of the spending review, HM Treasury agreed funding of £366m ($450m) for general digital investment across the Defra Group over the three-year period.

Howes said: “The important difference is that while the legacy applications program will bring things to a supportable standard – hopefully they won’t be overturned and subject to [a] the risk of a cyber attack – what it doesn’t invest in is scaling up or transforming such activities, such as removing paper forms or making apps available on mobile devices rather than laptops, for example.”

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The Animal Health Agency’s SAM, the bovine TB registration system, has only recently been updated. Before the upgrade, vets resorted to buying old laptops on eBay as it was the only way they could log into the system, Defra permanent secretary Finkelstein admitted. ®

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