Ombudsman receives 84 complaints in 2019 related to agriculture

Complaints to Ombudsman Peter Tyndall rose by 9% to 3,664 in 2019 – the highest number of complaints received since 2010.

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall examines complaints about public services, such as those provided by government departments, local authorities and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

In his annual report for 2019, the Ombudsman said his office saw increases in complaints about almost all sectors it deals with.

Source: Ombudsman Annual Report 2019
Source: Ombudsman Annual Report 2019

84 complaints were about the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with the Ombudsman upholding 10 of the complaints.

One upheld complaint involved a farmer from Sligo whose payment under the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) was stopped.

As part of the scheme the farmer had set aside a strip of land for 20 years to encourage wildlife habitat. The farmer had invested considerable resources in planting trees along the river and believed he would receive payments for 20 years.

The man took part in a number of REPS schemes involving different conditions and varying completion dates.

He was unable to enter the final REPS scheme and took part in a different scheme. However, the department stopped the 20-year payments as he was not in a REPS scheme.

The Ombudsman upheld the complaint as the farmer was in full compliance with all the conditions of the scheme, and it was reasonable for the man to believe he would continue to receive payment as the scheme clearly provided for payment for 20 years.

The department revised its decision and awarded the man €12,500. The department also identified 109 similar cases involving a possible liability of €855,000.

In another case, the department agreed to review its decision not to allow a 40-year-old farmer to apply for the Young Farmers Capital Investment Scheme (YFCIS).

Source: Ombudsman Annual Report 2019
Source: Ombudsman Annual Report 2019

The Ombudsman clarified with the European Commission that the interpretation of ‘young farmer’ in the scheme included someone who applied before their 41st birthday.

Tyndall also criticised the lack of action in reforming the eligibility criteria for the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers scheme.

The Ombudsman said that the way the criteria are framed results in people being denied admission to the scheme who are equally – but differently – disabled from a mobility point of view to those who have been admitted to it.

The annual report for 2019 is now available on the authority’s website.