Department of Agriculture officials to attend PAC meeting

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will meet with officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine tomorrow, Thursday, October 24.

The focus of the PAC’s examination will be the department’s 2018 appropriation account and chapter 10 – forestry grants from the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG’s) 2018 Report on the Accounts of Public Services, according to the committee.

It was noted that the department exercises a wide diversity of functions.

These include: development and implementation of national and EU schemes in support of agriculture, food, fisheries, forestry and rural environment; monitoring and controlling aspects of food safety; regulating the agriculture, fisheries, and food industries through national and EU legislation; and monitoring and controlling animal and plant health and animal welfare.

The department’s appropriation account shows that it spent €1.55 billion in 2018. In addition, EU expenditure totalling over €1.2 billion was channelled through the department in 2018.

The bulk of this expenditure was accounted for by the Direct Payment / Basic Payment Scheme to farmers.

In the period 2015–2018, a total of €404 million exchequer funding was spent on forestry development by the department.

The department also provides substantial funding to a number of state bodies including Teagasc, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, An Bord Bia and the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund.

Chairman of the PAC, Seán Fleming, said: “The committee will be keen to discuss how the department exercises its supervisory role over the state bodies which it funds, and the details of the internal financial controls regime in place.

The PAC will also be keen to discuss the consistent annual underspend and substantial shortfalls in tree planting targets which the C&AG has drawn attention to.

The meeting will start at 9:00am in committee room 3, tomorrow morning, according to the Houses of the Oireachtas.