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The opinion of someone who worked on the CTS system

Summary of PAC report HC136 Dated 6th July 2004

Identifying and Tracking Livestock in England.

IT Standpoint

An IT system has three components, (Input, Process, and Output) on which it can be measured. On all three counts the system has been found to be poor.

This is a catastrophic state of affairs as it means the system is not only not tracing cattle but it is doing even that badly and at great expense. This is a system that has been running without being monitored for quality adequately. Sir Brian's evidence and the NAO report on anomalies show an attitude that states it is unacceptable but was doing nothing practical to put it right until put under severe scrutiny.

CTS online, the web-based system would reduce the error rates to 1%, but the same output problems would persist. The system has a fatal flaw here and unless this addressed I fear the system will be still limited, when it could provide ideal and timely information for all future projects. This is a serious design issue that may be forgotten again.

Industry Standpoint

Any system needs the support and confidence of the users and in this case that is not present. The delays in subsidies and the exceptional error rates have seriously undermined the confidence of users and industry alike.

The system appears not to trace cattle, and far from assisting is actually hindering the payments to farmers of subsidies. This is due to the failure to adequately interface with the other systems.

The industry itself needs to be at the heart of the design and development phase. It needs to feel it is 'their system'. PAC recommends that markets, slaughterhouses and agencies have direct access, this is a good suggestion and should be followed up. It would greatly help in the instant traceability of livestock and other tangible spin-offs are possible that could finance the whole system via for instance commercial labelling.

DEFRA

The impression is that DEFRA gives the appearance that it is on top of the problem, by saying the number of errors is unacceptable, but does not seem to have tangible plans or a sense of urgency about putting things right. Subsidy Payments is a very good example of this attitude, and lack of concern for the livestock farmer unable to get his EU subsidies does not help foster trust.

The bottom line is that the system does not meet the needs of industry, the EU, the veternary service or even DEFRA. The system collects information and no one is able to use it, and it costs a great deal of money to do.