Slow draw down of grant aid blamed for €106m spending deficit

The slow draw down of grant aid is the reason behind the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine recording a spending deficit of €106 million last year.

A recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General outlined the figures for last year, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.

Minister Creed highlighted that the total gross voted allocation for the department for 2016 was €1,363 million and that the total gross expenditure of €1,257 million. He also emphasised the fact that 2016 was a challenging year for many farmers financially.

This resulted in slower than anticipated draw down of funding in some demand-led schemes such as the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) – where matching investment was required – and the forestry programme, which is also demand led.

“While savings unavoidably arose across a number of demand-led schemes in 2016, this expenditure will arise at a later stage of implementation of these schemes, particularly with regard to spending allocated under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) and the Seafood Development Programme (SDP).

“Notwithstanding the slower than expected draw down of funds in these programmes, I want to assure you that government is firmly committed to fully funding the RDP and SDP programmes; draw down is simply a matter of timing,” Minister Creed said.

Gross Surplus/Deficit in Expenditure 2010-2016

Meanwhile, the minister went on to explain that the draw down of funds can vary from year-to-year. Indeed some of the multi-year RDP scheme payments related to entrants to schemes, which commenced under the previous RDP, he added.

Minister Creed made the comments in response to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue.

Despite the underspend, there were increased levels of payments in support schemes such as the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme and the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) due to strong compliance with conditions and a fast turnaround of claim, the minister said.

Concluding Minister Creed said: “It is very important to articulate that there is no underspend in the RDP. Ireland’s draw down of EU RDP funding is the second highest of any member state. Our rate is 38%, almost double the EU average of 20%.”