There is room for further improvement to the Land Parcel Identification Systems used by Member States, a key control mechanism under the CAP, according to a report from the European Court of Auditors.

The auditors examined whether the Land Parcel Identification Systems (LPISs) were well managed by Member States and adequately monitored by the European Commission.

They visited Ireland and four other Member States, Austria, Germany (Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia), Poland and the United Kingdom (Scotland).

Although the LPISs are useful for determining the eligibility of agricultural land, their management could be further improved, the auditors found.

Nikolaos Milionis, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report said that weaknesses in the systems are affecting Member States’ ability to check the eligibility of land.

“Reliable data is essential to ensure payments are legal and regular.”

While aerial and satellite photographs were mostly up-to-date, their interpretation was not always reliable or conclusive, the report found.

Only in some LPISs was additional information concerning ownership and lease rights included in order to ensure that each parcel had been declared by the right farmer, auditors found.

In addition, it found that Member States did not analyse the cost-effectiveness of their systems in order to design checks better.

While Member States had made progress in upgrading their LPISs to meet the requirements of the 2014-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), auditors said the systems had not yet been fully adapted for greening.

Moreover, some of the Commission’s efforts to simplify the LPIS rules produced mixed results, the auditors said.

Through improved guidance, regular audits, the follow-up of Member States’ action plans and financial corrections, the Commission’s performance in its monitoring role has improved.

“However, the reliability of the yearly quality assessment exercise performed by the Member States on the effectiveness of their LPISs was undermined by methodological weaknesses, and insufficient checks and follow-up by the Commission,” they said.

The auditors had three recommendations for Member States on the LPISs:

  • Increase data reliability by enhancing the update process and, whenever feasible, checking whether land is at the farmer’s disposal.
  • With the support of the Commission, set up a framework for assessing the cost of running and updating their LPISs to measure performance and the cost-effectiveness of improvements;
  • Ensure their LPISs reliably identify, register and monitor ecological focus areas, permanent grassland and new categories of land.

Meanwhile, auditors said that the Commission should:

  • Re-examine the current legal framework to simplify and streamline some of the rules for the next CAP period.
  • Carry out a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether quality assessment could be improved to achieve better coverage of parcels.
  • Improve its monitoring of quality assessment results by analysing inconsistencies in reporting, following them up, providing feedback and ensuring that remedial action is taken.