NI Agriculture Minister: “It is unfortunate that the EU decided to take a hard line…”

In a statement yesterday the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister, Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew said

Announcing the LPIS Improvement project, the Minister said: “It is unfortunate that the EU decided to take a hard line and impose a £31m disallowance for the 2004-6 scheme years at such a difficult economic time both for the Executive and the wider economy as a whole.  That said, the EU decision has been made and we have to move to mitigate future disallowance.”

The Minister neglected to mention that the current level of the EU ‘disallowance’ being imposed is £60 million, due to the NI Agriculture Department’s mal-administration of EU farming subsidies.

Nor did the Minister mention that at the recent NI Assembly Agriculture Committee meeting about the DARD budget, her department’s assistant secretary told the committee that “DARD now believed it was prudent to make further provisions which could push the final bill up to £100m.”

As today’s Irish News reported

The cash-strapped Stormont Executive has been asked to put aside £40 million to cover further fines for the farm subsidy claims fiasco.

The money is in addition to more than £60 million already demanded by the European Commission for Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (Dard) failings in the administration of payments to farmers.

…………

A spokesperson for Dard confirmed that its recent spending proposals included a request for a £40 million contingency sum to be set aside to cover disallowance by the European Commission.

, , , , , , , ,

  • Drumlin Rock

    “Announcing the LPIS Improvement project” why has it taken her 3 years to announce it?

  • I have been reminded that Ms Gildernew did not take on Agriculture until 2007, these problems stem from 2004.

    It does need radical action to bring the department up to speed, but Drumlins Rock has said, on another thread, that the latest plan is sectarian.

    Big departments need grown up, capable people to run them. If SF are to grow they must outgrow their sectarian past first.

  • magnus

    It is unfortunate to read it was predictable.

    Given the scale of the contingency (£40m) it makes sense to mitigate the exposure by empoying more technicians. There must be a few unemployed graduates out there who can read a map.

  • Pete Baker

    That’s a £40 million contingency in addition to the £60 million that the EC has already demanded.

    “DARD now believed it was prudent to make further provisions which could push the final bill up to £100m.”

  • medillen

    Scotland is rumoured to face a fine of £140 million for 04/06 alone with similar amounts acruing when the other audit years come forward. England is facing absolutely huge sums. Most European member states are facing big disallowance as this new system of payments which came in, in 2004, is audited by the EU Court of Auditors.

  • The Raven

    ….not to mention the millions more that will be handed back when the Rural Development Programme misses ALL its targets.

  • Alias

    “It is unfortunate that the EU decided to take a hard line and impose a £31m disallowance for the 2004-6 scheme years at such a difficult economic time both for the Executive and the wider economy as a whole.”

    It’s more “unfortunate” that her department’s incompetence cost the region a considerable amount of money “at such a difficult economic time both for the Executive and the wider economy as a whole.”

  • barnshee

    who was/is responsible??
    who have been censured-lost their jobs-had pay reduced ??

  • Cynic

    DARD should be told to cut other spending in the Department to compensate starting with the jobs of those at fault ….and that includes the Minister

  • Dr Concitor

    What about the £200M that never was, for the sale of Crossnacreevy, and the impending fines for lack of protection for the horse mussels of Strangford Lough. But no one is to blame. No one is held to account.

  • medillen

    ‘What about the £200 million that never was?’ exactly Peter Robinsons (at the time)Department of Finance valued the land at £200 million basing it on planning permission and ‘current’ land prices. On the back of that a grant scheme for farmers was funded to the tune of £70 million. The then chair of the agriculture Comittee castigated the minister for selling ‘the family silver’. Unfortunately things changed the asre fell out of the property market and planning permission was a distant memory. Farmers got sorted but a few years aftewrads the Department of Finance, who the valuating, were left with a headache. Not really Gildernew’s fault when DFP F**ks up.

  • medillen

    If you watch the DARD official John Smith on BBCiplayer I think you’ll find that the £60 million is already sorted from a combination of DARD contingencies and Executive underspend that would otherwise have been returned to the British Treasury, therefore no effect on any other budget.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Medillen
    If you are familiar with the saying “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” then it is money that could have been spent elsewhere…

    (Whether it would have been spent wisely, is a different story)

  • Cynic

    … and wasn’t Crossnacreevy never worth that £200m,. After all, didn’t a major developer own the land close to the Plant Station and hadn’t he been turned down for planning permission to develop it as housing?

    So to make the land worth all that money the whole Area Plan would have had to be changed and I am sure the local MP would have objected to that on behalf of his constituents.

  • magnus

    Given that farmers who have falsely declared or not declared changes in land use will be prosecuted it makes sense to give them an amnesty in return for their help in correctly classifying their own land. The revenue from court fines is infinitesimal to the potential savings in the European Commission fines

    And with a minor change to the legislation, any future infingements can be punished harshly.

  • “NI Agriculture Minister: “It is unfortunate that the EU decided to take a hard line…””

    It is unfortunate that NI rolled over to be shafted, but then again it is as a virgin in a brothel, all at sea and easily abused for the pleasure of others.

    The pigs with their snouts in the EU parliament trough cannot survive without the people’s money being perceived as fair and necessary for its running, and endless new rule-makings, because for everyone to know that it is just to hide the easy printing of money for wealth which can be easily supplied to friends in the know, would cause a bloody revolution and see them running the gauntlet of the mob, baying for their blood and guts.

  • Boglover

    Gildernew’s scalp must at least be tingling at the moment, prior to it parting company with her. As well as the fine there is the 2 issues currently being aired by BBC’s Mike McKimm, the “Sudden Oak Death” disease in DARD forests and the Horse Mussels in Strangford. In the former, no action for 3 years and the latter 5. Both these are masterful demonstrations of the problem that also lies behind the fines; namely her Department’s ability to spend years talking without taking any effective action.

    It ain’t her fault, but she’s going to carry the can when all the dots are joined and a scalp is required to demonstrate something is being done!

  • Boglover

    Very few farmers will go to court for this, as the majority of errors are because they didn’t check the faulty maps produced by DARD. Current maps are based on OSNI data which is flawed, but very difficult for both the owner or the Department to check without walking each field with a GPS. The LPIS replacement system is based on ortho-photography, with GPS ground-truthing. One of the problems with both systems is that computers don’t deal with curves well and would rather calculate using straight lines.

    No real advantage in taking owners to court as fines go to the Treasury and don’t make a contribution to the area of administration that they relate to.

  • magnus

    And there’s me thinking our OS would be the best in the world.

    Still its one of those problems which is known and calculable as indeed the costs of not doing so.

    How do you eat an elephant? Burger by burger. Get on with it.