Almost 100 complaints made against Department of Agriculture in 2018

The office of the Ombudsman received 93 complaints in 2018 relating to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, according to a new report from the Government watchdog.

This was the third highest number of complaints received across all Government departments. However, it was only a fraction of all complaints.

The Ombudsman received 1,069 complaints in total, of which the vast majority – 700 – were levelled against the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Of the 93 complaints received against the Department of Agriculture, 85 of them were brought to a conclusion.

However, well over half of these complaints – 50 to be precise – were not upheld by the Ombudsman.

Of the remainder, 16 complaints were upheld, two were partially upheld, and in three cases, the report says that “assistance was provided” to the party concerned.

10 cases were withdrawn or discontinued, while four were found to be outside the remit of the Ombudsman.

Causes of complaints

Of the 93 complaints against the Department of Agriculture, the Basic Payment Scheme accounted for the most, with 23, not including the category of “miscellaneous” complaints, which accounted for 54.

After that, the most complaints were for (as they appear in the report): the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (seven complaints); the Single Farm Payment (six); the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (one); the National Reserve (one); and the Forest Premium Scheme (one).

[Note: The report does not reflect when a grievance actually occurred.]

Case study

The Ombudsman’s report also provides a number of case studies of complaints it dealt with, including a case of a farmer who was prevented by the Department of Agriculture from transferring his Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) contract to another farmer.

The farmer who complained had been declared medically unfit to work, and was looking to lease the farm out. However, the department told him he couldn’t, and that GLAS contracts could only be transferred to family members.

But, upon intervention by the Ombudsman, it was found that there was nothing in the GLAS rules that limited transfers to family members only and that the farmer, being seriously ill, had met the conditions for a transfer.

The department was asked to review its decision, which it did, subsequently allowing the transfer.