A man was awarded €1,000 by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine after he made a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman regarding the Fallen Animal Subsidy Scheme.

That’s according to the office’s annual report for last year, which outlined a number of case studies of complaints received across all public service sectors for 2021, of which this particular case was one.

The office received 77 complaints regarding the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2021, according to the report.

This is down significantly on 2020, in which 163 complaints were received against that department.

This is despite a record number of complaints received regarding all public services last year, the Office of the Ombudsman revealed today (Wednesday, May 25).

However, the number of complaints for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was the third highest among government departments, behind the Department of Social Protection (579 complaints); and the Department of Foreign Affairs (103 complaints).

The Office of Revenue Commissioners was also a cause of more complaints than the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The three departments mentioned above, along with the Office of Revenue Commissioners, make up the four state entities that generated the most complaints.

The report outlined the types of complaints received across various public service sectors.

Many complaints for the Department of Agriculture were directed at farmer schemes, with the worst-offending schemes being: The Green, Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS); the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS); the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme; and the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS).

These schemes were responsible for 13, eight, six and four complaints respectively.

In the annual report, Ombudsman Ger Deering (who has been in the role since November 2021), said he welcomed the reduction in complaints for the Department of Agriculture.

However, the noted that the overall number of complaints across all public services increased by 17% on the 2020 figure, reaching the highest level in the 38-year history of the office – 4,004 complaints.

Local authorities were responsible for a large part of these, with 1,290 complaints received against them – an increase of 45% since 2020.

Regarding the case studies outlined in the annual report, the case dealing with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine describes the situation of a man referred to in the report as Jim, though this is not his real name.

He had complained to the ombudsman when a new condition in the Fallen Animal Subsidy Scheme confined the distance that animal waste could be carried for rendering to a distance of 125km from the business.

Jim was aware of a cheaper animal renderer just outside the 125km limit. There was an exemption to this condition in cases where animal collectors did not have access to the services of more than one renderer within the travel limit.

However, Jim had difficulty obtaining more than one quote in his area and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine refused to grant him an exemption, resulting in a competitive disadvantage to his business.

The Ombudsman Ger Deering agreed with the man and asked the department to review his case. Following this intervention, Jim was granted an exemption.

He was also awarded €1,000 by the department in recognition of the time and trouble it had taken to resolve his complaint.