LEADER groups asked to pay back nearly €4m

All 36 Local Action Groups (LAGs) in the 2007-2013 LEADER rural development programme were requested to reimburse some of the monies they received in the €340 million programme, because of administration cost claims being deemed ineligible.

LEADER groups asked to pay back nearly €4m

By Stephen Cadogan

All 36 Local Action Groups (LAGs) in the 2007-2013 LEADER rural development programme were requested to reimburse some of the monies they received in the €340 million programme, because of administration cost claims being deemed ineligible.

Reimbursements were also requested due to 139 rural development projects not being completed as approved, or in accordance with the programme’s rules.

The total amount refunded in respect of ineligible expenditure on projects and LAG administration costs since the commencement of the 2007-2013 programme is €731,736.

But €3,087,305 of debt is still outstanding, not including interest, said Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring in the Dail last week. Almost all of the outstanding debt relates to project expenditure, he said.

In the ongoing 2014-2020 LEADER Programme, six of the 35 LAGs have already been requested to reimburse funding, where administration costs claimed were deemed to be ineligible. However, the amount is only €1,078.

No project expenditure has yet been deemed ineligible in the current €250m 2014-2020 LEADER Programme.

Where ineligible administration or project expenditure is identified by the Rural and Community Development Department, beneficiaries are, where possible, afforded an opportunity to rectify the issue identified. The findings can also be appealed, through a specific LEADER Appeals process.

“In addition, my Department notifies the European Commission on an annual basis of debts incurred and reimbursements received,” said Minister Ring.

He said his Department does not hold data in respect of ineligible expenditure incurred under LEADER prior to the 2007-2013 programme.

He was answering a Dail question on the matter by Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin, Sligo-Leitrim.

LEADER is a multi-annual programme co-funded by the EU.

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