The Department of Agriculture has no evidence of fraudulent Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) claims being made by farmers, according to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

The Minister made the statement this week in response to questioning from Sinn Fein TD, Martin Ferris.

Ferris asked the Minister the measures his Department has put in place to prevent fraudulent  claims being made under REPS and if his attention has been drawn to claims made in respect of lands that did not belong to the claimants.

The Kerry TD also asked the Minister if there are officials in his Department currently investigating such fraudulent REPS claims.

In response, the Minister Coveney said Department of Agriculture has no evidence of any widespread breaches of land-ownership requirements under the REPS Scheme and is not carrying out formal investigations in this area at this point in time.

However, he said if such information exists, the Department would be glad to receive further details.

According to the Minister, all applications for admission to the Scheme and subsequent payment claims are subject to administrative checks and any other controls deemed necessary.

Applications have been cross-checked with records held under the Department’s Single Payments System and Animal Identification and Movement System. Prepayment checks and on-farm inspections are carried out annually, he said.

The Minister said where an applicant knowingly makes false or misleading statements or withholds essential information in support of any claim for payment, their participation in the scheme may be terminated and all or part of any aid already paid must be returned.