THE SCOTTISH Government's £178 million IT system for paying EU subsidies to farmers and crofters is still not delivering value for money, according to a new report from Audit Scotland published on Thursday morning.
Although the application process has improved over recent months, the government will have to invest more money to stabilise the much-maligned system.
The financial watchdog said the Scottish Government was still at risk of being fined millions of pounds for not complying with EC regulations such as missing deadlines for payments under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).
Auditor general for Scotland, Caroline Gardner, said: "It's crucial that knowledge is effectively transferred to staff so the system can be maintained and payments made on time for 2017.
"The Scottish Government also urgently needs to fully understand the financial risk it faces, so that it can target funding at ensuring the system is compliant and secure."
But NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick demanded that "change must come" after crofters and farmers were failed for the last three years.
"For three years, we have been highlighting the problems of the IT system. Several loan schemes have been won by NFU Scotland and put in place to bypass the IT system and deliver much needed funding to farms and crofts," he said.
"But we know that the loans don't work for everyone. We know that 1700 farmers and crofters are still awaiting payments amounting to £12 million from the 2015 Less Favoured Areas Scheme, almost two years after they applied, and that payments amounting to £6 million for the 2016 Hill Sheep schemes have still to start, leaving a hole in the Scottish rural economy.
"I am on record as saying that if this IT system had been a tractor that I had bought, then it would have been returned to the dealer years ago with demands for a full refund."
The full report can be found here.