Agriculture to blame for errors with Irish spending of EU monies

The European Court of Auditors has highlighted errors in the way Ireland spent EU funds last year with Agriculture most to blame.

In its annual report it said audits carried out by the Commission in 2013 and 2014 to Ireland showed weaknesses in both administrative and on-the-spot checks.

While it said Ireland has put in place an action plan, it said it has not yet been fully implemented, however it did says progress has been reported to the Commission.

It said the Irish authorities have been encouraged to continue the implementation of the action plan in order to address the weaknesses identified in the context of the recent audit and provide regular updates on the implementation.

Speaking to the Irish Independent following the release of the report Kevin Cardiff, Ireland’s member of the European Court of Auditors, said while none of the errors were serious, auditors said it “showed weaknesses in both administrative and on-the-spot checks” in Ireland.

“The transactions we sampled in Ireland this year did have errors, indeed, in the majority of cases, but the errors tended to be small relative to the size of the amounts concerned,” said

“The fact that there are errors means that you have to continue to insist that the systems for controlling that spend are appropriate.”

The report comes as having had a €181m EU fine over land eligibility reduced to €67m the Department of Agriculture is now in negotiations with Department of Public Expenditure over how the money will be paid.

In May 2014, the Commission proposed a 2% flat rate financial correction for Ireland of €181.5m arising from its Conformity Clearance audits in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

The payments audited covered the period from 2008 to 2012 during which over €9 billion was paid to farmers in Ireland under the Direct Payment Schemes.

Following lengthy negotiations with the European Commission, the Department of Agriculture was successful in arguing that proposed correction as disproportionate to the seriousness issues over Ireland’s LPIS system.

Responding to questions at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine recently the Minister for Agriculture confirmed that his Department was now in negotiations with the Department of Public Expenditure as to how the reduced fine will be paid.

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