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O'Neill responds to disallowance announcement

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill today said that a programme of work is underway to minimise the risk of future disallowance.
Thursday, 20 October 2011

She was commenting in the wake of the European Commission’s announcement that they intend to recover monies from a number of Member States for non-compliance with EC rules.

The Minister said: “The disallowance allotted to the North of Ireland follows audits carried out in 2006 and 2008 relating to the Single Farm Payment Scheme. It relates to the Department’s decisions at the time of the allocation of Single Farm Payment entitlements and the impact of this in 2005-2007. Elements of this disallowance had previously been announced by my predecessor, Michelle Gildernew, last September. It should be seen in the context of a Single Farm Payment allocation of well over £250million per annum.”

The Minister added that her department is implementing a programme of EU audit compliance to significantly reduce or eliminate future disallowance. She said: “I am determined that taxpayers do not continue to be penalised for control weaknesses. I want to be able to demonstrate to the Commission that our controls provide an adequate level of assurance that we are correctly paying SFP and other area based schemes.

"A central component to this is the LPIS (Land Parcel Identification System) Improvement Project which will revise every farm map and provide farmers with an estimate of the eligible land for each field. The Project is on-going and we plan to start to issue revised maps later this year. This will put in place an accurate, stable mapping system which will provide reassurance to the Commission that our practices meet their requirements.”

The Minister continued: “In addition to this, my Department has asked the NI Audit Office to carry out additional work to assure the Commission that its controls meet their requirements. This approach has been particularly welcomed by the Commission. In the coming weeks, I plan to update the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and indeed the wider Assembly on the detail of this Programme of EU audit compliance. However I must stress that even if DARD's programme to tackle disallowance is successful, it is unlikely to affect the decisions on historical disallowance which, like this one, move slowly through the European system."

The Minister concluded: “The decisions on these matters lie ultimately with the Commission and we will continue to engage with them to minimise disallowance, which is a problem being encountered by many member states. Indeed this recent announcement highlights that the North of Ireland is not alone in facing disallowance with corrections being applied across a number of Member States because of non-compliance with EU rules or inadequate control procedures.”

Notes to editors:

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