DARD faces disallowance threat
Sinn Fein Agriculture Minister, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has expressed disappointment that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) is facing around a £28.5million disallowance on its European Union funding.
This financial correction is as a result of observations made in a European Commission Audit. The corrections cover the Single Farm Payment and some smaller Area Aid schemes during the period 2004-2006.
The Minister said:
"DARD has always taken steps to ensure that all possible aid gets to the farmer and those in the front line in the industry. I and my colleagues in the department are extremely disappointed that effectively the North may be penalised for allegedly being too generous or lenient in the administration of EU finances.
"If I stand accused of being sympathetic to the farmer I plead guilty. But what I do not want to see is money being disallowed to the North and its farming community. I will fight this on all possible fronts. The next step in line with Commission protocol is to take our case to the Conciliation Body and that is what we will do.
"I am staggered by the disallowance proposed. We knew that the Commission Auditors were not completely satisfied with certain aspects of the department's mapping system. During their visit in 2006, they were critical of farmers for not reporting changes to fields and, in particular, that DARD had not been advised of changes to or the presence of ineligible features such as buildings, laneways, trees or scrub. They also criticised our inspectors for accepting land as eligible, when in their view it was not."
"Once again, I urge farmers to ensure that their maps are correct and to advise us of any changes to their fields. This is vitally important if we are going to be able to convince the Commission that we have a mapping system that reflects the true situation of our fields." ENDS
Note to Editors
The Conciliation Body is part of the Clearance of Accounts procedure. The body provides an external and independent examination procedure of the formal correction proposals at the end of the dialogue phase between Member States and the Commission services in regard to the clearance of accounts.